Seasonal Produce Guide: Strawberries

by Anastassia Skarlinski

A restaurant I worked at always celebrates the “Merry Berry Month of May” with strawberry pie. To this day, I always think of May and strawberries as being inextricably linked. In many parts of the world, strawberries are just one of the many joys tied to spring. In parts of Bavaria, there is a folk tradition of tying baskets of wild strawberries to cattle horns as a gift to the elves to help produce healthy calves and milk. In Rome, strawberries were linked to Venus, the goddess of love. This probably led to the legend that if you break a double strawberry in half and share it, the person you share it with will fall in love with you.

Strawberries are members of the rose family and native to temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere. Throughout Europe, strawberries grew wild and were largely grown as a medicinal herb. All parts of the plant were thought to be useful for treating everything from acne to gout. A member of Emperor Napoleon’s court, Madame Talien, is said to have bathed in the juice of 22 pounds of strawberries, although probably not daily. In the Americas, colonists were amazed to see that the Native population used strawberries as well, only as food. They would make bread from crushed strawberries and cornmeal. It has been said that this is the inspiration for the strawberry shortcake. The berries that we enjoy today are a hybrid of European and North American strawberries.

You probably do not need me to tell you that strawberries are a nutritious addition to your meals. Ounce for ounce, strawberries have more vitamin C than citrus fruits. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps limit the damage that free radicals can do in your body. It also helps your body to make collagen which helps your wounds heal. Strawberries are a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber, manganese, folate, and potassium. Some of the micronutrients found in strawberries are being researched for their roles in protecting your heart, fighting bacteria, and regulating blood sugar.

I have already mentioned their usefulness in pies and shortcakes, but what is your favorite way to enjoy strawberries? You can have them on cereal, in smoothies, or on a peanut butter sandwich. You can cook them into a jam or jelly, bake them into a quick bread or muffins, or roast them as a yogurt topping. You can eat them, chopped or whole as they are, all on their own. Although most people prefer their strawberries in sweet applications, they also work as a bright burst of flavor in savory settings like salads and sandwiches. Give them a try in this chicken salad sandwich filling.

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