By: Saima Ausaf
Strawberries are considered to be the most popular berries in the world. This bite sized fruit, bright red in colour, covered by tiny green leaves forming a cap on the top, is not only appealing to the eye but also tempting to eat. Packed with many essential elements, juicy and delicious strawberries (when in season) should be a part of one’s diet.
Selecting and storing strawberries:
- Strawberries are one of the most perishable fruits. When buying fresh strawberries, watch for firm, plum, bright coloured fruit with glossy surfaces that are also free of mold. Unlike other fruits, strawberries do not continue to ripen once they are picked so be sure that you select the reddest, ripest ones as they will provide the best taste and nutrients.
- If there are red stains or liquid leaking from the bottom of the box, it means the fruit has been on the shelf for too long and in not worth buying.
- If you want the strawberries to stay fresh and last longer after buying, do not wash them till you want to use them.
- Place them in a container, preferably in layers with a dried paper towel lined at the bottom.
- When you are ready to use them, wash under cool tap water.
How to freeze strawberries:
In order to enjoy the sweet taste of strawberries all year round, it is best to purchase the finest quality of the fruit when in season and freeze them. Although strawberries that have been frozen and then thawed will not retain their original shape and texture, but can be used as an ingredient in sauces, preserves, jams, smoothies etc. Here are three most popular methods of freezing strawberries.
- Wash berries in cold water and pat dry .Remove any stems and leaves, if any.
- Place the strawberries on a baking sheet, making sure that they do not touch one another. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for about an hour then transfer to the freezer for 6 hours or overnight.
- Once the berries are frozen, seal in an airtight container or a freezer bag and store in the freezer.
Freezing strawberries with sugar syrup.
- Pour the sugar syrup over the berries. Seal the container and freeze.
Freezing strawberries dry with sugar.
Health Benefits of Strawberries:
- Packed with nutrients, strawberries offer many health benefits. They are an excellent source of vitamin C which prevents from infections and colds. Diets rich in vitamin C have shown to help fight osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Also this berry is a very good source of Vitamins B2, B5 and B6. These strengthen the cardiac muscles and help in the better functioning of the heart. Strawberries are a good source of the minerals: potassium and magnesium, both of which are effective in lowering high blood pressure. They are rich in iodine too, which is very helpful for proper functioning of the brain and nervous system.
- The bright red colour of the strawberries is due to their high concentration of anti oxidants. According to USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), strawberries rank in the top 20 fruits with the most antioxidant capacity. Strawberries are rich in anthocyanins (a phenol that acts as a powerful anti oxidant and helps protect the body against the free radical damage). Free radicals are elements that can damage cells and are thought to contribute to the formation of many types of cancers.
- Strawberries are also considered as one of the best foods for skin care and weight loss. Studies indicate that regular intake of strawberries help improve your skin and hair conditions. As they are high in fibre and aspartic acid, they play an important part in losing weight and are often included in weight loss diet plans. Also, they are very low in calories, with only 49 calories per one cup of strawberry halves.
- The acid in the strawberries is extremely effective in dissolving the tartar and dramatically improving the health of the gums.
Strawberries are one of the most versatile fruits and can be used in:
- Ice creams
Strawberry Smoothie Recipe:
½ cup low fat milk
½ cup vanilla or strawberry ice cream (optional)
First blend strawberries and milk together until strawberries are well blended. Next add ice cream and yoghurt and whip just a bit so that the smoothie remains thick. Pour in a tall glass and enjoy!
So take advantage of the season and try to incorporate this delicious and nutritious fruit into your daily meal plan. Eat strawberries either whole, or chop them in salads or blend them into smoothies and enjoy the goodness of this amazing fruit!