Spring has finally arrived in Middle Georgia, and the advent of strawberry season is soon to follow. Strawberries are a sweet, juicy treat that can be enjoyed by both adults and children alike. The berries also offer a host of nutritional benefits.
Strawberries are low in calories with only 55 calories in one cup and are a good source of fiber. With more than 200 milligrams of potassium per serving and virtually no fat or sodium, the berries are a good food choice for individuals with high blood pressure and those looking to reduce the sodium and fat in their diets.
For those of us who need to boost our vitamin C and antioxidant intake, strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C and ellagic acid. A single serving of strawberries contains 150 percent of the daily value recommended for vitamin C, which is 1.5 times as much as an orange.
To get the highest quality berries with the most health and nutrition benefits, it is important for consumers to select and store strawberries properly. When purchasing strawberries at local farmers markets or grocery stores, only plump, firm, bright red berries should be selected. Bruised, molded and dull berries should be avoided. As a non-climacteric fruit, strawberries do not continue to ripen after harvest, so green or pink berries should also be avoided if maximum flavor and taste are desired.
After purchase, strawberries should be stored between 32 and 36 degrees for peak flavor retention. The green end cap on the berries keeps moisture out, so do not remove the end caps until you are ready to consume the berries. Once the end caps are removed, berries should be rinsed well under cold, running water before being enjoyed as a delicious snack or dessert. Strawberries maintain peak flavor, texture and nutritional quality for three to four days in the refrigerator. Thus, consumers should try to eat fresh berries as quickly as possible or freeze them for longer storage.
Picking your own strawberries is a great way to help your kids learn more about where their food comes from and about healthy eating. It is also a way to encourage your entire family to get up off of the couch and be active. The website www.pickyourown.org/GA.htm offers more information on where you can locate pick-your-own farms throughout Georgia.
If you would like additional information on the health and nutrition benefits of strawberries or recipes using strawberries, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 478-987-2028.
Rebecca Creasy is the Houston County Extension agent for food and nutrition and family and consumer sciences.