As Becki mentioned in her most recent post filled with mouth watering desserts, it is strawberry season here in North Carolina! While picking strawberries is a fun way to teach children some basics on where food comes from, it is true that as kids grow into teens they may lose interest in actually picking the berries themselves. I can’t understand this because I love to be in the strawberry field – the red berries are so beautiful and they smell so fresh and good! After maybe 10 minutes (less if I have a helper), I have a basket full of strawberries! Picking them yourself also knocks a few dollars off the price. Since strawberries are probably on every table in Apex at least once a week this time of year, I thought I would give you some quick facts about this beautiful and delicious fruit.
Here in the USA, you can find strawberries at a local grocer any time of the year. While it is definitely convenient if you need them for a recipe or have a craving, the best strawberries for your body will be those that are seasonal and freshly picked. Not only will the color be more appealing, the flavor more satisfying, but the nutrients in the berries will be more abundant. As with most produce, the vitamins and minerals that are provided by the plant will start to lessen once harvested. Add up the processing and transportation time that is required to get the berries from a farm to your store, you have to wonder how much nutrition is left in the fruit. Although still a healthy food, think of what is contained in a freshly picked strawberry! So, take advantage of this season and get those fresh berries into your diet.
More than just a pretty berry:
There is more vitamin C in eight medium strawberries than what is typically found in an orange. Strawberries contain flavonoids that help maintain healthy arteries and potassium to help regulate blood pressure. Even more, the small but mighty seeds that cover the fruit provide a bit of omega-3 fatty acids. Your digestive system will benefit from the fiber found in the berry as well as from tea that can be made from the leaves. The benefits don’t stop there. There are also antioxidants found in strawberries that work to protect your cells from harmful carcinogenic substances.
Remember to look for organic strawberries and to inquire about what type of pesticides and fungicides are used to treat the fruit at your favorite farm. Strawberries have claimed the undesirable #1 spot on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list. Even if the berries are organic, it is good to know what products, if any, are used on the berries or farm. It is also a good idea to give the berries a good rinse before serving, even if organic.
Okay, so that is the quick 411 on the strawberry. But, what about the leaves? Don’t go tossing those into the garbage or even into the compost bin quite yet. I mentioned earlier that the leaves can be used to make a tea. Just add the leaves to a pot, steep in boiling water for about five minutes, strain, and enjoy! This tea is known for calming upset stomachs. It is recommended to use fresh, young leaves, but dried leaves will work fine too.
While strawberry season tends to wind down around the end of May, there are many fruits that are getting ready for their annual debut in July, like blueberries and peaches. Check out the North Carolina Harvest Calendar so you know when you can expect to find your favorite fruits and veggies at your local farm stand or farmer’s market.
I also need to give a shout out to my favorite Apex farm, Prince Farms! In addition to strawberries, you can pick up tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, lettuce, and more! Feel free to comment below and tell us about your favorite farm!
Stay tuned, stay healthy, and stay Pretty in the Peak
Marianne Lindgren, MS, RD
References and Further Reading:
Healing Foods www.dk.com