The garden strawberry is a common plant of the genus Fragaria which is cultivated worldwide for its fruit, the (common) strawberry. The fragrantly sweet juiciness and deep red color of strawberries can brighten up both the taste and aesthetics of any meal; it is no wonder they are the most popular berry fruit in the world. Although strawberries have become increasingly available year-round, they are at the peak of their season from April through July when they are the most delicious and most abundant.
Strawberries not only look like a fruity heart-shaped valentine, they are filled with unusual phytonutrients and phenols that love to promote your health. The anthocyanins in strawberry not only provide its flush red color, they also serve as potent antioxidants that have repeatedly been shown to help protect cell structures in the body and to prevent oxygen damage in all of the body's organ systems. Strawberries' unique phenol content makes them a heart-protective fruit, an anti-cancer fruit, and an anti-inflammatory fruit, all rolled into one.
Strawberries have been associated with decreased rates of cancer death, and are proven to fend off eye diseases and degeneration of the eye associated with aging, and are beneficial against rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammations. In one study, strawberries topped a list of eight foods most linked to lower rates of cancer deaths among a group of over 1,000 elderly people. Those eating the most strawberries were three times less likely to develop cancer compared to those eating few or no strawberries.
Strawberries have grown wild for millennia in temperature regions throughout the world. They began being cultivated sometime before the Christian era and were highly prized by many ancient Romans. Yet, after the fall of Rome, they seemed to have lost their favor until they reemerged in Europe in the Middle Ages. During this time, they began to be prized again, more so for their medicinal qualities than for their culinary value.
The strawberry, like many other perishable fruits at this time, remained a luxury item only enjoyed by the wealthy until the mid-19th century. Once railways were built and more rapid means of transportation established, strawberries were able to be shipped longer distances and were able to be enjoyed by more people.
Tips for Preparing Strawberries:
Since they are very perishable, strawberries should not be washed until right before eating or using in a recipe. Do not remove their caps and stems until after you have gently washed the berries under cold running water and patted them dry. This will prevent them from absorbing excess water, which can degrade strawberries' texture and flavor. To remove the stems, caps and white hull, simply pinch these off with your fingers or use a paring knife.
Despite their perishable nature, strawberries do appear to hold up well in fruit salad if properly stored and chilled. This is good news for those of us who are pressed for time but love fresh fruit salad. And who doesn't since its a perfect addition to any meal and makes a great snack or dessert?
It's been thought that cut fruit rapidly degrades, so fruit salad, which can take 15 minutes to prepare, would have to be freshly prepared to be good, but a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has found that minimal processing of fruit-cutting, packaging and chilling-does not significantly affect its nutritional content even after 6, and up to 9, days.
In practical terms, this means that you can prepare a large bowl of fruit salad on the weekend, store it in the refrigerator, and enjoy it all week, receiving almost all the nutritional benefits of just prepared fruit salad.
Tapioca Pudding with Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce
Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
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