Published 12:20 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2022
This week let’s explore a subject on the sweet side…strawberries.
The exact origin of the word “strawberry” is uncertain but is believed to be an alteration of “strewn berry”, as a designation for the plant, which made reference to the fact that as a strawberry plant produces “runners”, and spreads, its berries appear to be “strewn” about the ground.
Wild strawberries have been a common source of fruit for centuries. References to strawberry propagation became more common by the 16th century. The “garden” strawberry was first bred in France, in the 1750s, brought from Chile by Amedee-Francois Frezier in 1714.
Today, strawberries are globally cultivated for their dazzling red color, juicy character, and luscious flavor. The United States leads the world in strawberry production with 1,312,960 tons annually. Other principal leading strawberry producers include Turkey, Spain, Egypt, Mexico, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Poland, and Germany.
Eighty percent of strawberries produced in the U.S. come from California, but our area has some of the sweetest, supreme tasting strawberries, anywhere. Most everyone recognizes how fabulous strawberries are, but here are a few more tidbits about this fruit to appreciate. Strawberries are the only fruit to wear their seeds on the outside. The average berry carries some 200 seeds. Strawberries aren’t true “berries” at all, like grapes, blueberries, gooseberries, and cranberries, because technically, berries hold their seeds on the inside. Some other fruits you might not consider to be berries, but are, include tomatoes, bananas, avocado, eggplant, kiwi, pumpkin, watermelon, and peppers. Strawberry plants are perennials, which means the plants regrow every spring.
There are three types of strawberries: “June-bearing”, “overbearing”, and “day neutral”. Strawberries are actually members of the rose family. Other members of the “Rosaceae” or rose family include apples, pears, apricots, quinces, plums, raspberries, peaches, loquats, cherries, and almonds (almonds are botanically defined as seeds, rather than fruit).
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Americans eat on average three-and-a-half pounds of fresh strawberries per year (I personally know folks who eat much more). May 21-27 is “Strawberry Week” in Delaware, and it’s celebrated each year, and Belgium actually has a museum dedicated to strawberries. It’s called “Musee de la Fraise”, which translates to “strawberry museum”. Native Americans were among the first to enjoy strawberries. Ancient Romans knew strawberries had medicinal properties. In France strawberries are believed to be an aphrodisiac.
Did you know strawberries are loaded with healthful benefits. They’re packed with vitamins and minerals like vitamins C and K, folate, manganese, potassium and magnesium. They’re low in calories, but high in fiber. One cup of strawberries yields only 49 calories yet provides 3 grams of dietary fiber. Strawberries are rich in heart-healthful antioxidants like “ellagic acid” and “flavonoids” like “anthocyanin”, “catechin”, “quercetin”, and “kaempferol”. These compounds lower risk for cardiovascular disease by impeding the formation of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol. They also improve blood flow by relaxing blood vessels. Strawberries are great for the eyes, because they prevent dry eye, degeneration of the optic nerve, macular degeneration, vision defects, and vulnerability to infections. They also help reduce ocular pressure.
The antioxidants vitamin C, kaempferol, anthocyanins, and quercetin found in strawberries fight cancer and tumor growth. Strawberries reduce hypertension, because they are a rich source of potassium and magnesium, both of which are vasodilators. The vitamin C found in strawberries helps boost the immune system. One cup contains 150% of the daily value of vitamin C. The fiber and vitamin C in strawberries help reduce cholesterol in blood vessels.
To keep strawberries longer, wash the berries in a diluted vinegar bath. Soak for five minutes in 1 cup of vinegar plus 3 cups of water. Let air dry on paper towel before storing. Once dried, there’s no vinegar taste, and strawberries will last three to four times longer. In fact, you can use this method with most fruits and vegetables, however this is not a substitute for using a vegetable brush to help wash away hard-to-remove microbes.
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