Local Strawberry Time

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Our neighbors just brought us a great surprise, a bowl of fresh local strawberries. Wow, the flavors of those fresh berries can’t be beat. I know local farms are selling out of berries quickly, but take heed, May is peak production time, and local berries should be available until at least the end of the month.

When selecting berries, check that they are bright red with fresh green caps. Use berries as soon as possible after getting them home. For the longest shelf life, take the berries out of large buckets and pails and gently arrange them in shallow containers and put in the refrigerator immediately.

Store unwashed berries –loosely covered with plastic wrap—in the coldest part of the refrigerator. They keep for about three days. Don’t wash or remove the green caps until just before you’re ready to use. When you remove the caps you tear cells in the berries, this activates ascorbic acid oxidase —probably more than you wanted to know—that destroys the Vitamin C.

To wash, place berries in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Don’t use soap, detergent or bleach. Don’t allow berries to set in the water as they will lose color and flavor. Remove the green caps after washing.

I’ve heard many people say that they use a vinegar wash to help keep berries fresh longer. According to Colorado State University Extension, adding vinegar to the wash water (1/4 cup distilled white vinegar per one cup of water), followed by a clean water rinse, has been shown to reduce bacterial contamination, but also may affect texture and taste. After rinsing, be sure to blot dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture.

Top view of several dozen fresh strawberries

Photo courtesy of USDA Agricultural Research Service.

What about moldy berries? Does one bad berry ruin the whole batch? In a recent podcast, our NC State Extension Food Safety Specialist, Dr. Ben Chapman talks about this very topic. He says one moldy berry isn’t risky but recommends quickly removing the moldy fruit and taking a look at the surrounding berries. If one berry is molded, mold spores may have traveled throughout the entire batch. He recommends washing the remaining berries and eating them as soon as possible. If you’d like to hear the whole discussion, this is episode #139 of the Risky or Not? podcast series.

Due to the many variables, such as moisture content, size and variety, it’s almost impossible to get a specific answer to how many pounds of berries are in a quart. But it’s usually about 1 ½ pounds of berries to every quart. If you’re going to use them in recipes: one quart of berries equals approximately 3 ¾ to 4 cups of hulled, whole berries.

Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C. One cup provides you with all the vitamin C you need in one day. That cup of strawberries also contains about 4 grams of dietary fiber, which is a great head start on that 20-25 grams daily recommendation. All of this goodness with only about 45 calories. 

Looking for something just a little different to do with those strawberries? How about a Quinoa Strawberry Salad from our Med instead of Meds recipe book? 

Quinoa is a whole grain. Add it to fresh berries, salad greens, and olive oil and you’ve got a whole Mediterranean Diet thing going on. Because the quinoa soaks up the dressing quickly, wait to dress the salad until right before serving. If your family doesn’t go for arugula, use all spinach or other salad greens. The quinoa could be served warm or cooled completely. Basil and strawberries go great together, so if you have fresh basil available, be sure to add it to the greens.

Quinoa Strawberry Salad

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Salad

  • ½ cup dry quinoa
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, chiffonade
  • 2 cups arugula
  • ⅔ cup sliced strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 handful of fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

Directions

  1. Place quinoa in medium saucepan along with 1¾ cups water. Bring to boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes or until cooked.
  2. Remove lid and cook until all water is evaporated. Remove from heat.
  3. Make the dressing by combining all ingredients in a bowl or jar.
  4. Place the quinoa, spinach, arugula, strawberries, toasted almonds, and basil in bowl and combine.
  5. Makes four servings, each containing 182 calories and 3 grams of fiber. 

References:

Med Instead of Meds Quinoa Strawberry Salad

Strawberries  & More, University of Illinois Extension


Cheryle Syracuse wrote this article and more similar ones for the Family and Consumer Sciences Column in the Brunswick Beacon. Syracuse is an FCS team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, 910-253-2610.