FD: Dixie Burmeister Colomn April 15, 2009

A berry primer in earnest for peak season

A rose is a rose, but did you know that a strawberry is a member of the rose family and isn’t really a berry?

According to the University of California Division of Agriculture, the strawberry consists of hundreds of tiny individual fruits called achenes (the brown or whitish specks we call seeds) that are embedded in the beautiful red “container or holder.” The achenes actually surround the tiny seeds.

The University of California should know, since California grows almost 83 percent of our nation’s strawberries amounting to 1.4 billion pounds every year grown on 25,000 acres.
California’s strawberry season is from January through November with the peak in April, May and June.

Florida produces strawberries November through January.

I venture to say there are few people who don’t like these juicy, delicious, naturally sweet, nutrition-packed berries, achenes, or whatever you call them.

Strawberries 101

•  Choose strawberries that are bright and glossy with a good red color. Watch out for signs of spoilage, mold, shriveling, mushiness and a dull appearance. Strawberries don’t ripen once picked, so pick out ones that are.

• Do not wash strawberries until just before eating or preserving. Washing will accelerate spoilage.

• Store in the crisper section of frig in the plastic containers they come in or in a partially opened plastic bags.

• To wash: Place in a colander and hold under cool running water and pat dry with paper towels.

• To freeze: Clean, pat dry and place on shallow pan in the freezer. When frozen, put them in freezer containers. I cut larger berries in half. You can also slice, add sugar and freeze.

• Strawberries make wonderful jams, jellies and preserves and strawberry rhubarb pie.

Ideas for washed and ready to eat berries

• With a dip made of sweetened low-fat ricotta cheese and a dash of vanilla.

• Dip in prepared instant vanilla or chocolate pudding. Thin with a little extra milk.

• Don’t forget strawberries dipped in melted semi-sweet chocolate. So easy, so elegant.

• Balsamic vinegar mixed with a bit of brown sugar.

• Tossed in green salads, coleslaw (trust me on this one) and pasta salads.

• Prepare an omelet. Spoon sliced, sweetened berries down one side and fold over; top with more berries — add a dash vanilla to eggs along with a dash of sugar.

• Top a toasted Double the Fiber English Muffin with whipped low-fat cream cheese and sliced strawberries.

• Float berries in lemonade, ginger ale or other drinks.

Strawberry/Asparagus Salad

Makes 6–8 cups dark salad green

2 cups sliced strawberries

Thinly sliced red onion

2 cups chilled and cooked to tender crisp asparagus or thin green beans

1/2 cup sliced almonds or pecan halves

1 1/2 cups cut up grilled or roasted chicken or ham (Easter leftovers?) Shrimp is also delicious.

Lightly toss with dressing.

Dressing recipe

2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar (or raspberry vinegar)

2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon water or orange juice

2 cloves garlic crushed

1 teaspoon sugar

Shake all ingredients together in a jar and toss with salad. Top with a little feta cheese.

Strawberries with Fresh Lemon-Poppy Seed Dip

From http://www.calstrawberry.com.

2 pint baskets California strawberries

2/3 cup light sour cream

4 teaspoons honey

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

Rinse strawberries and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. To make dip, whisk ingredients until smooth. Serve in a small bowl to accompany strawberries.

Dixie note: I have made this with Splenda. You can also add strawberry jam in place of honey.

Dixie note: I have a recipe for a 32-ounce container of non-fat, plain yogurt mixed with one tub of Crystal Light Lemonade Powder. This makes a most fabulous dip for fresh strawberries. I repeat it because it is so good and beautiful to serve.


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