Spectacular Strawberry

Strawberries.  Hmmm.  Just saying the word makes me think of the juicy, fragrant fruit.  Sitting here in the office, I can almost smell it.  I love strawberries for the way they can enhance just about anything, but they are packed full of nutrients to help the body. 

A strawberry is a sweet, red heart-shaped fruit, which is much loved for its delicious taste. Native to many parts of the world, it belongs to the rose family and has a distinct aroma. Despite its name, a strawberry is not a berry botanically. It is an aggregate accessory fruit, which means the fleshy part is not derived from the plant ovaries. Instead, each visible seed covering its outside is borne from one of the ovaries of the flower. Also, each strawberry has about 200 seeds. Crazy!

Strawberries have high levels of heart-healthy antioxidants like ellagic acid and flavonoids like anthocyanin, catechin, quercetin, and kaempferol. These compounds lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases by inhibiting the formation of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol. They also relax the blood vessels, causing improved blood flow and preventing cardiovascular problems. Additionally, the high fiber content, vitamin C, and folate in strawberries form an ideal cardiac health pack as they effectively reduce cholesterol in the arteries and vessels.

Eating strawberries can prevent eye conditions like dry eyes, degeneration of the optic nerves, macular degeneration, vision defects, and increased susceptibility to infections. Antioxidants in strawberries can help avoid almost all eye problems because they protect against free radical scavenging activity.  Strawberries are also known to reduce ocular pressure in the eye which can be harmful.

Strawberries are rich in potassium and magnesium, both of which are vasodilators, meaning they reduce hypertension and the rigidity of arteries and blood vessels. This eases the flow of blood to various parts of the body and keeps them functioning at their full potential. 

Vitamin C, folate, anthocyanins, quercetin, and kaempferol are just a few of the many flavonoids in strawberries that act as excellent antioxidants. Together, they form an excellent line of defense to fight cancer and tumor growth. Daily intake of strawberries is connected to a drastic reduction in the presence and metastasis of cancer cells.

Strawberries are rich in iodine, vitamin C, and phytochemicals, which help maintain the proper functioning of the nervous system. Potassium in strawberries has also been linked to an improved cognitive function by increasing blood flow to the brain. Furthermore, research on older women showed higher consumption of blueberries and strawberries, rich in anthocyanins and other flavonoids, is linked with a slower progression of cognitive decline.

Vitamin C present in strawberry boosts the immune system and helps in curing common cough and cold. A single serving has approximately 150% of your daily requirement of vitamin C!  Folic acid in strawberries is a necessary nutrient, especially during pregnancy, as it helps in preventing birth defects. It is also important for ensuring optimal health during pregnancy.

Fun Facts

While strawberries are grown in every state in the U.S., California is the top producer.  10 million baskets of strawberries are shipped daily during harvest time in California.

There are more than 600 varieties of strawberries that differ in flavor, size and texture.  That is a lot of options! In Australia, they can grow as big as your hand! You also have options for color.  You can get strawberries in metallic or royal blue, green, yellow, white, purple and even black (yes they are ripe and good for eating, not rotten) just to name a few.

Strawberries were once thought to be an aphrodisiac and were served in soups to newlyweds in 13th century France.  Ancient Romans also used strawberries alleviated symptoms of fainting, fevers, throat infections, kidney stones, halitosis, attacks of gout, and diseases of the blood, liver and spleen.

Strawberries are best picked when ripe.  They will not continue to ripen off the vine.  You should however, be prepared to use or eat them as soon as you pick them.  They will go bad in just a couple of days.  You can refrigerate them to add a few extra days to their shelf life.  However, when storing it’s best to lay them on a paper towel in a single layer.  The containers you get from the store cause the strawberries to go bad quickly as they will mold if there is no space between them.  Do not wash or remove the hull until you are ready to use as this will cause them to lose flavor and nutrients more quickly as well.  Freezing them however, will cause them to last for about 6 months.  To freeze, wash and remove the top.  Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze for 4 hours.  Then place in air tight container and remove as much air as possible.  Find some fresh strawberries this weekend and meet me in the kitchen. 

Strawberry Cream Soda

For strawberry simple syrup                   

1½ cup diced strawberries

1 cup water 

1 cup sugar  

For cream sodas

Ice

Seltzer water

Heavy cream

Additional strawberries for garnish, if desired

To make simple syrup, place strawberries, water and sugar in saucepan. Bring to gentle simmer over medium high heat and cook for about 20 minutes, mashing strawberries with spoon as they soften. Do not let mixture boil, or you will lose too much moisture. By the end of 20 minutes, the simple syrup should have a red color, and strawberries should be really soft. Remove pan from heat and strain through sieve. Let syrup cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold.  To assemble cream soda, place ice into glass. Fill about half of glass with seltzer, then add a couple tablespoons of strawberry simple syrup, as well as a couple tablespoons of heavy cream to taste. Garnish glass with strawberry if desired, and stir to mix all ingredients. Taste and add more simple syrup if you want it sweeter, or more cream if you want it creamier.

Recipe adapted from ifoodtv.com.

 

Strawberry Breakfast Tacos

6 flour tortillas (6 inches)

½ cup cream cheese, softened

2 Tbsps. honey, more or less to taste

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Fresh strawberries, sliced

Warm tortillas in large skillet until just softened.  Beat together cream cheese, honey and cinnamon until well combined. Spread cream cheese mixture on one half of tortilla to taste. Top with strawberries and fold in half.  Enjoy!

 

Strawberry Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

cup walnuts, halved or chopped

1 head romaine, torn

1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced or diced

2 cups halved fresh strawberries

DRESSING:

¼ cup mayonnaise

2 Tbsps. sugar

1 Tbsp. sour cream

1 Tbsp. milk

2 tsps. apple cider vinegar

1-2 tsps. poppy seeds

Place romaine, onion and strawberries in large bowl. Lightly toss to mix. Whisk together dressing ingredients. Serve salad in individual bowls and top with dressing to taste. Sprinkle nuts over salad. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from tasteofhome.com.

 

Strawberry Dessert Bruschetta

1 French baguette sliced diagonally, about 1/2-inch thick

1 cup diced strawberries

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

4oz cream cheese, softened

Honey for drizzling

Combine sugar and strawberries in small bowl. Cover, and refrigerate for about 2-3 hours, or until strawberries have slightly softened.  Don’t let it go more than 8 hours though or strawberries will start rotting. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place bread slices in single layer on prepared sheet.  Bake bread about 20 minutes to toast. Allow to cool slightly.  Spread cream cheese evenly over slices of bread, followed by spoonfuls of strawberry mixture. Drizzle with honey and serve immediately.