Strawberries have a history that goes back over 2,200 years. Strawberries grew wild in Italy as long ago as 234 B.C.
The first garden strawberry was grown in France during the late 18th century. Prior to this, wild strawberries and cultivated selections from wild strawberry species were the common source for the fruit.
Strawberries are native to both the northern and southern hemispheres. They are grown in every state in the US, every province in Canada, all over Europe, Australia, Asia and Latin America. They can grow by the sea, in the woods, and on mountain tops. Ideally strawberries are planted outdoors, but in the colder regions of the world, heated glass houses provide a safe growing environment.
Strawberry is the only berry that has seeds on its external surface. The other berries have seeds inside. A single strawberry has 200 tiny seeds.
Some 600 strawberry varieties are grown in the U.S. When you find different varieties at your local farmers market, you may be surprised by how varied they are in shape, color and taste. Typically, the smaller the berry, the greater the intensity of flavor, large berries tend to have more water and a slightly diluted flavor.
Strawberries are low in fat content and calorie. In addition to vitamin C, strawberries also provide an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese, as well as folic acid, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, copper, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
They can reduce the risk of cancers and heart attacks. Strawberry intake helps in the reduction of systolic blood pressure. Fresh juice from strawberry pulp helps in recovering from fever. Strawberry juice, if combined with honey can reduce inflammation. It has a curative effect on sunburns.
The dietary ﬁber in strawberries helps to keep digestion regular, as well as lowers blood pressure and curbs overeating.
Anti-Inﬂammatory: The phenols in strawberries also ﬁght against many inﬂammatory disorders, such as osteoarthritis, asthma and atherosclerosis, by inhibiting the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX) in the same way that the drugs aspirin and ibuprofen do. Strawberries, however, do not carry unwanted side effects like stomach and intestinal bleeding.
Antioxidants: Strawberries contain a chemical compound called phenols. Anthocyanin, a particular phenol abundantly found in strawberries, lends the rich red color to the fruit.
Arthritis and Gout: The degeneration of muscles and tissues, drying up of the fluid which help mobility of the joints and accumulation of toxic substances and acids (such as uric acid) in the body are some of the ill effects of free radicals present in our body, which are primarily responsible for arthritis and gout. Strawberries, with their team of anti oxidants and detoxifiers, can effectively help push away such health hazards forever.
Brain Function: It is a very common observation that old people tend to lose their memory and control over their activities, limbs etc. This is because of aging of their brain and the nervous system. Actually, the free radicals, the agents very much responsible for aging, have a very adverse effect on these systems. Due to them, the brain tissues start degenerating and the nerves get weaker. Strawberries can help you out. The vitamin-C and the phytochemicals in them neutralize the effect of these oxidants and also rejuvenate the system. One more thing, strawberries are rich in iodine too, which is very helpful for proper functioning of the brain and nervous system.
Cancer: Vitamin-C, Folate and Anthocyanin, Quercetin and Kaempferol (few of the many Flavonoids in strawberries which possess excellent anti oxidant and anti carcinogenic properties) together form an excellent team to fight cancer and tumor. A daily intake of strawberries is seen to have remarkably brought down the growth of cancerous cells.
Eye Care: The primary reasons for almost all the problems of eyes are free radicals and deficiency of certain nutrients. With the growing age and lack of these protective nutrients, the harmful oxidants or free radicals cast heavy damage on our eyes, such as drying up of eyes, degeneration of optical nerves, Macular degeneration, vision defects and make them prone to infections too. The anti oxidants such as vitamin-C, Flavonoids, Phenolic Phytochemicals and Elagic Acid, present in strawberries can help avoid this situation to a great extent. One more factor is ocular pressure, i.e. the pressure of the eyes., any disturbance in it is also harmful for the eyes. Here too, strawberries are helpful as they contain potassium, which help maintain right pressure.
Heart Diseases: High fiber, Folate, no fats and high antioxidants such as vitamin-C and those phytochemicals (Flavonoids) together form an ideal cardiac health pack, as they effectively reduce cholesterol. Some of the members of the vitamin-B family present in strawberries also strengthen the cardiac muscles and help better functioning of the heart.
High Blood Pressure: Strawberries are very good in potassium and magnesium content, both of which are very effective in lowering high blood pressure caused by sodium.
There are a number of other benefits that strawberries offer. Folate is known to protect from birth-defects. Vitamin-C effectively prevents from infections and cold. The phytonutrients also have anti inflammatory properties.
As strawberries are very perishable, they should only be purchased a few days prior to use. Choose berries that are firm, plump, free of mold, and which have a shiny, deep red color and attached green caps. Since strawberries, once picked, do not ripen further, avoid those that are dull in color or have green or yellow patches since they are likely to be sour and of inferior quality. Full ripe berries will not only have the peak flavor and texture, but will have more nutrients. “Full ripe” in this case means optimally ripe, not overripe. Both under ripe and overripe strawberries have been show to have lower vitamin C content and decreased phytonutrient content in comparison to optimally ripe 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 for a day or two in fruit salad if properly stored and chilled.
HEALTHIEST WAY OF PREPARING STRAWBERRIES
Strawberries retain their maximum amount of nutrients and their maximum taste when they are enjoyed fresh and not prepared in a cooked recipe. That is because their nutrients—including vitamins, antioxidants, and enzymes—are unable to withstand the temperature (350°F/175°C) used in cooking/baking.
- Add sliced strawberries to mixed green salad.
- Layer sliced strawberries, whole blueberries and plain yogurt in a wine glass to make a parfait dessert.
- Blend strawberries with a little bit of orange juice and use as a refreshing coulis sauce.
- Add strawberries to breakfast shakes to give them a more vibrant taste and texture.
HOW TO FREEZE STRAWBERRIES
Freezing your own strawberries is easy. Hull them, lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet, freeze them until they are solid (overnight usually does it), transfer them to a re-sealable plastic storage bag, and keep them frozen until you’re ready to use them. Frozen strawberries will keep up to six months, even a year in a stand-alone freezer with reliable temperature control.