Large, juicy, red berries that are very sweet when ripe and grow on a low-growing perennial plant that has horizontal runners that spread along the ground. The strawberry plants are generally replaced after 3 or 4 seasons to insure productivity of the crop. The berries that we eat are not actually the fruit. They are the swelling of the plant's stalk that happens after the flowers have been pollinated. The tiny seeds that cover the berries are actually the real fruit. There are hundreds of different varieties of cultivated strawberries, which vary in size, shape, juiciness, texture, and sweetness. There are also wild strawberries, which are much smaller than the cultivated varieties, but they are juicier and more flavorful. Strawberries are harvested at different times throughout the year in different locations. California and Florida produce the majority of the strawberries in the United States. Strawberries are high in vitamin C, manganese and dietary fiber. There also have a high rate of antioxidant power.
How to use: Ripe strawberries are often eaten raw as whole, sliced or crushed berries. When sugar is added to strawberries, their natural juices are drawn out and crushed berries will produce a sauce that can be eaten as is or poured over shortcake or ice cream. Strawberries are used as an ingredient in many salads, pies, cakes, sorbets, and other desserts. They are used as appetizers or a garnish on appetizer and cheese platters. A popular dessert is strawberries dipped in chocolate. Strawberries mixed in a blender with ice cream, yogurt, milk or other fruits make delicious and healthy shakes. They can also be cooked and made into jellies and jams. It is also one of the most popular flavorings in candies and other sweet products. Dried strawberries, which make sweet, chewy treats, are also quite common and are often added to snack mixes.
At their best: Strawberries are available year-round but they will be at their best and most plentiful during the peak season, which is April through July. Purchasing them from local growers during their harvesting season will provide the freshest and most flavorful berries.
How to buy: Look for strawberries that are a shiny, bright red color. Dull red berries are an indication that they are overripe. The strawberries should smell sweet, fruity, which is an indication that they will have a sweet flavor. They should be firm without bruises or soft spots, which cause the berries to deteriorate quickly. The damaged berries can contaminate the other berries and cause them to deteriorate. Always check the entire container of strawberries, top and bottom, to avoid purchasing berries that are dull, bruised, or moldy. Generally the size of the strawberries is not an indication of how sweet and flavorful they are, although very large strawberries tend to be less flavorful.
Storage: Strawberries are best eaten the day they are purchased. If storing strawberries, first sort through them and discard any soft, bruised, damaged, or overripe berries. Without washing, replace the strawberries back in their original container or place on a paper towel covered plate or pan and cover lightly with plastic wrap. The strawberries should be lightly covered to prevent their scent from penetrating other foods when stored in the refrigerator. The berries can be stored in the refrigerator for two or three days. Do not remove the hulls until berries are going to be used. Strawberries are highly perishable so they should not be exposed to the sun or warm temperatures for any extended period of time. If the strawberries are not going to be used within 2 or 3 days, they can be frozen to prevent them from spoiling.
Fraise des bois
Strawberries aren't as fragile as other berries, so they don't need the special handling that makes most berries so expensive. The best time to buy them is in the spring, but you can find them throughout the year, though the price might be higher and the quality lower. Select berries that have fully ripened to a dark red.