‘Tis the season for sweet, juicy strawberries! With the winter months subsiding and spring approaching, everyone’s favorite fruit is ripe for the picking – so bring the kids along and pick some yourself! Strawberries are actually the first fruit to ripen in the spring, so they truly are the first sign of sunny days ahead. Whether you indulge in a delicious strawberry shortcake, blend some into a refreshing fruit smoothie, or enjoy the berries by themselves, make sure to take advantage of this nutritious springtime treat.
California produces the most strawberries, totaling an incredible one billion pounds each year. If you laid the berries side by side, they would wrap around the world 15 times!
According to research from the University of Illinois…
- 94 percent of households in the United States consume strawberries, with an average yearly consumption of 4.85 pounds of fresh and frozen strawberries per person.
- Strawberries are grown in every state in the United States, as well as in every province of Canada.
You can find native forms of strawberries in every continent except Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
- There is a strawberry-themed museum in Belgium. The strawberry is actually a member of the rose family.
- There is an average of 200 seeds in each strawberry.
Delicious and Nutritious
Aside from being one of the tastiest snacks, strawberries also have numerous health benefits for kids and adults alike, and one cup of strawberries is only around 55 calories. They serve as a powerful antioxidant, and they are also effective in fighting cancer as well as neurodegenerative and inflammatory diseases. Just eight strawberries provide 140 percent of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin C for kids, which helps boost immunity and fight off sickness. Strawberries are also high in fiber, potassium and folic acid.
In addition to their high content of vitamins and nutrients, strawberries can also help clear skin, fight dandruff and assist in weight loss. Some people even use strawberries as an ingredient in foot scrubs!
Jen Hillan, MSH, RD, LD/N, an outpatient dietitian at UF Health, agrees that strawberries are an excellent source of nutrition.
“Did you know that eight strawberries have more vitamin C than an orange? Strawberries are full of phytonutrients, compounds in foods that may help protect us from diseases such as heart disease and cancer,” Hillan said.
There are many ways to enjoy strawberries, but to receive the maximum health benefit, she suggests eating them fresh.
“Try adding them to smoothies or incorporating sliced strawberries in a salad. Add pureed strawberries to lemonade. Sliced strawberries are a great topping for low-fat yogurt, ice cream, pancakes, French toast, cereal, angel food cake and so much more! And of course, don’t forget strawberries dipped in dark chocolate!”
Though the strawberry is one of the most popular fruits, it is also one of the most common allergens. An allergy to strawberries can produce tightness in the throat, itching, swelling, hives inside the cheeks and a prickling or burning sensation on the tongue, gums or lips. This allergy can usually be treated by an antihistamine or an over-thecounter medication for temporary relief. It is always best to notify a doctor if you suspect a strawberry allergy in yourself or your kids, especially because this allergy may indicate an allergy to similar fruits.
Saddened by an allergy to this fabulous fruit? Try white strawberries instead! Though they may not be as flavorful as the red variety, biochemists from Sweden’s Lund University determined that those with a strawberry allergy did not show the same symptoms after consuming white strawberries, which contain little to no allergens.
Save Some For Later!
When you go strawberry picking, odds are you will grab more than you can eat in one sitting! Storing strawberries is simple, and frozen strawberries can last six to eight months.
Don’t wash the strawberries until you are ready to eat them. Strawberries act like sponges in that when they are wet, they soak in the moisture, making them more susceptible to spoiling or getting soft. Wet berries also invite mold, so make sure to hold off on the rinsing until it’s time for a snack.
Don’t cut off the stems. Leaving the stems on the strawberries until you are ready to eat them will also prolong their shelf life.
Don’t let a bad berry spoil the bunch. If you see any moldy berries in the container, take them out immediately. Mold spreads quickly, so removing spoiled berries can save your whole batch.
If you’d like to freeze the strawberries, wash them and cut the stems and leaves off before placing them in a freezer bag, removing as much excess air from the bag as possible.