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Lynn Little: Strawberries make for scrumptious fruit season

May 19, 2010|By LYNN LITTLE / Special to The Herald-Mail

Strawberries are coming into season now, so you should find them readily available at local roadside stands, farmers markets and the local grocery stores. Strawberries are always a nutritious choice and a wonderful treat.

Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that might reduce the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer. It helps protect the skin from bruising, helps heal cuts and keeps gums healthy.

One cup of strawberries provides 3 grams of fiber and only 46 calories. Strawberries also have potassium, which can help maintain a healthy blood pressure.

When selecting strawberries, make sure that they have shiny skin that is deep red in color. Dull-colored berries indicate they are overripe.

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Avoid purchasing strawberries that have yellow or green spots, as this is a sign that they are not fully ripe. Once off the vine, strawberries do not continue to ripen. Be sure to check the bottom of the container for any mold, as it spreads quickly in strawberries.

Prepackaged strawberries should not be packed really tight because this causes the flesh to become bruised and damaged. The plastic around the package should be dry and not discolored. If you want sweeter strawberries, try finding the medium-sized berries. Larger strawberries are sometimes more tart.

Strawberries are quite perishable but will keep in the refrigerator for two to three days.

Before refrigerating the berries, pick out the strawberries that appear spoiled because they will cause the other berries to spoil. The remaining strawberries can be placed back in the original container, unwashed.

You could also store strawberries in layers, separated by paper towels inside a plastic container or sealed bag. This works well for short storage time.

Strawberries kept at room temperature should be stored away from sunlight to avoid spoiling.

Fresh strawberries should only be washed right before eating or right before adding to a recipe. To wash, place berries in a colander and rinse under cold running water.

Do not allow berries to set in water as they will lose color and flavor. Wash with the green cap still attached as this also helps prevent the berries from soaking up excess water, which causes a change in flavor and texture.

Strawberries can also be frozen for up to one year. Start by washing the strawberries and patting them dry. Place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. The stems can either be removed or remain attached. Lemon juice can be added to the strawberries prior to freezing to help retain their color. After three to four hours in the freezer, place the berries in a heavy plastic bag. Strawberries can also be cut into pieces or crushed and then frozen, but this results in a loss of vitamin C. Freezing whole strawberries will retain more of the vitamin C. Strawberries keep well in the refrigerator for two to three days. Wash them just before serving.

You can find pick- your-own strawberry locations by visiting Maryland Department of Agriculture's website at www mda.state.md.us. Click on Maryland Products tab for pick-your-own strawberries businesses.

For strawberry recipes, go to http://www.calstrawberry .com,

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.

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