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CHEFS In Season Featuring Strawberries: Strawberry Recipes, Tips, Information and more from CHEFS Catalog.
Featured Strawberry Recipes
Strawberries: A love affair
Many people have a love affair with the heart-shaped, ruby red, succulent strawberry—and it’s no wonder. Strawberries have been a symbol of love as far back as the Greek gods. For example, the strawberry was a symbol for Venus, the Goddess of Love. And artists have been writing and painting about strawberries for ages, saying the fruit signifies purity and passion.

About strawberries
Did you know the strawberry isn’t really a fruit or a berry? (And you thought the debate over whether tomatoes were a fruit or a vegetable was bad enough.)

If the strawberry is not a fruit or berry, what is it? According to WebMD.com, strawberry plants are members of the rose family. The “fruit” is an enlarged receptacle of the flower.

Regardless, we love them. How much? Let’s start answering that by looking at where they’re grown and how many are consumed each year.

Production: Who is growing them?
The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center reported that in 2010, the U.S. produced nearly 1.3 million metric tons of strawberries. This accounted for 30 percent of all the strawberries produced in the world, making America the world’s largest producer of the strawberry. Because native forms of strawberries adapt to their climate, they grow on every major continent in the world, except New Zealand, Australia, and Africa.

As you may have guessed, California is the U.S. leader in strawberry production, which makes the state the overall production leader worldwide. According to the California Strawberry Commission (www.californiastrawberries.com), 2.1 billion pounds of berries were harvested in 2011, at a value of $2.3 billion. California’s Department of Food and Agriculture ranks strawberries as the sixth most valuable fruit crop produced in the state.

When it comes to our supply of fresh strawberries in the winter, Florida takes the lead. Florida’s total production value in 2010 was marketed exclusively as fresh market “winter” strawberries, and accounted for $362 million.

Where do all these berries go? About 75 percent are sold fresh and the rest are frozen. Only 16.3 percent of the fresh California berries are exported each year, mostly to Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Hong Kong . U.S. exports of strawberries are big business, too, with the majority going to Canada and Japan. About 279 million pounds of fresh strawberries ($341 million worth) and 15,520 metric tons ($26.5 million) of frozen strawberries went out of the country in 2010.

Most California strawberries are grown in the southern and coastal areas of the state and cover about 40,000 acres. In Florida, 8,800 acres are planted and Oregon has 1,900 acres on average. In California, the berries are an annual crop, meaning the plants are replaced each year. The plants don’t produce 12-months a year, of course, but the fact that California climate and temperature is conducive to growing every month of the year, the state does boast higher yields per acre than any other area.

Even with all these berries being grown in U.S., we still import berries—the majority coming from Mexico. In 2011, more than 394 million pounds of fresh and frozen strawberries came into the U.S. from south of the border. The highest season for imports was March and April, when America’s supply is lowest.

Penn State University’s extension service suggests more people in this country are now eating strawberries fresh. In 1980, more than 40 percent of U.S. berries consumed were processed. That number has dropped to 20 percent in recent years. In addition to California and Florida, Penn State notes that the top strawberry-producing states are Oregon, North Carolina, Washington, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, and Ohio. In addition, the U.S. leads worldwide production, followed by China and Spain.

While strawberries are available virtually all year, in every state in the country, there is still nothing as wonderful as an in-season berry picked in your own area. The season can be terribly short, however, depending on weather conditions. Too much rain and the berries will rot in the field. Too much heat and they almost melt on the runner. If you like to pick your own strawberries, it’s best to go as soon as you can, or you might miss out.

Looking for organic? Look for berries that are bright red, firm, plump, and shiny, and they should be fragrant. The caps should also look fresh and green. Avoid berries with white shoulders since they don’t ripen after they have been picked. Also stay away from strawberries that look shriveled, bruised, moldy, or mushy. The size can vary, so don’t let that drive your decision—ripeness is what matters.
Varieties
There are many differences between the cultivated varieties of strawberries, including the date the fruit ripens, disease resistance, freezing quality, firmness, berry size, berry shape, and flavor . Here are examples of berries that ripen at various points in the season:

  • Early: Earliglow berries have great flavor and good disease resistance. The plants produce moderately and the size of the berries declines quickly over time.
  • Mid-season: Allstar berries are productive, providing berries that are light in color, have good shape and size, but are prone to angular leaf spot.
  • Mid- to late-season: Jewel berries are productive, setting large fruit with good color.
  • Late: Chandler berries have good flavor, produce high amounts and for a long time. They are inclined to crown rot.
According to the book Gardening Made Easy (International Masters Publishers AB, 1995), there are three varieties of strawberries: June-bearing, which produce one large crop from late spring to early summer and a possible second crop during early fall; Everbearing, which produce from spring through fall, but with smaller yields; and, Aplines, which produce in the spring with the smallest, but most flavorful, berries.
Grow your own?
If you’d like to grow your own strawberries, you can plant a patch in your garden or in one of many raised beds, hanging baskets, or strawberry pots found on the market today. Gardening Made Easy suggests finding a sunny location because most varieties of strawberries need 8 to 10 hours of sunlight. Be sure you have well-drained soil with a pH of around 6.0. If you live where you get snow and cold temperatures, plant your berries in the spring. For early season, or June-bearing varieties, leave 18 to 24 inches between plants and space rows 3 to 4 feet apart. Mid- and late-season types can be placed closer together.

Also, strawberries will likely wilt if you put them where raspberries, other strawberries, or plants such as tomatoes, peppers, or eggplants were previously growing. Consult a gardening book or website for more specifics on spacing and handling runners and for help in determining the best varieties for your area.
Storage
Refrigerate strawberries after they’re picked and hold off on washing them until you’re ready to use them. According to RealSimple.com, the berries will keep for three days and you should throw out bad berries to prevent mold from spreading.
Nutrition
As with most fruits and vegetables, the strawberry’s vibrant color is an indicator of goodness inside. One serving provides more vitamin C than an orange! In fact, only eight (8) strawberries provide children with 140 percent of their recommended daily intake of vitamin C. Which is great news, since more than 53 percent of 7- to 9-year-olds picked strawberries as their favorite fruit.

The USDA says that for one cup of whole strawberries (144 grams), you’ll score 19 mg of magnesium, 35 mg phosphorus, and 220 mg of potassium. In the vitamin column the same amount will have 84.7 mg of vitamin C, 35 mg of folate . Furthermore, according to the California Strawberry Commission, strawberries contain phenolic compounds, which are being closely studied for their antioxidant, anticancer, and antimutagenic properties. The commission also states that the strawberry is second among fruits in antioxidant capacity. Apparently, antioxidants are absorbed within an hour of eating, meaning they get right to work fighting those free radical compounds that cause disease.
History
According to the Manzanita Berry Farms’ website, strawberries grew wild in Italy in 234 B.C. Wild berries were also discovered by the first settlers in Virginia in 1588. In 1643, settlers in Massachusetts noshed on berries local American Indians were cultivating. It is noted that after 1860, strawberries were grown widely across the states, with records showing them in California in the early 1900s.

Why is a strawberry called a strawberry? There are a couple of possibilities: First, there is the common practice of placing straw around the plants as protection. Second, the English word strawberry is derived from the Anglo-Saxon verb “to strew” or “to spread,” indicating the spreading runners the strawberries put out.

One historic strawberry dish

The University of Illinois Extension office notes that American Indians once crushed strawberries and mixed them with cornmeal to make strawberry bread. From that dish, the early settlers developed strawberry shortcake .
Fun strawberry facts
Thanks to the folks at the University of Illinois extension service for these fun facts:

Science facts
  • Seventy percent of a strawberry plant’s roots are in the top three inches of soil.
  • A strawberry’s flavor is influenced by weather, the variety, and stage of ripeness when harvested.
  • On average, there are 200 seeds in a strawberry. Strawberries are the only fruit, incidentally, with seeds on the outside.
  • Ancient Romans used berries for medicinal purposes, believing the fruit alleviated symptoms of melancholy, fainting, all inflammations, fevers, throat infections, kidney stones, halitosis, attacks of gout, and diseases of the blood, liver, and spleen.
Culture facts
  • Belgium has a museum dedicated to strawberries.
  • In the U.S., 94 percent of households consume strawberries, with an annual per capita consumption of 4.85 pounds of fresh and frozen ones.
  • Strawberries are grown in every state in the U.S. and every province of Canada.
  • If all the strawberries produced in California in one year (one billion pounds) were laid berry to berry, they would circle the world 15 times.
  • The world’s largest strawberry shortcake can be found in Lebanon, Oregon, at the annual strawberry festival.
Strawberry lore
  • Madame Tallien, a prominent figure at the court of Emperor Napoleon, bathed in the juice of fresh strawberries, using 22 pounds per basin.
  • In parts of Bavaria, people still practice the rite each spring of tying small baskets of wild strawberries to the horns of their cattle as an offering to elves, who are passionately fond of strawberries. They believe the elves will help the cows produce healthy calves and an abundance of milk in return.
  • Queen Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife, had a strawberry shaped birthmark on her neck, which some claimed proved she was a witch.
  • Conversely, medieval stone masons carved strawberry designs on altars and around the tops of pillars in churches and cathedrals to symbolize perfection and righteousness.
Preparing and eating
Strawberry lovers know that there are so many ways to enjoy the fruit, it’s hard to pick a favorite: strawberry ice cream, chocolate covered strawberries, strawberry pie, plain strawberries fresh from the patch—the list goes on and on. Since February is the time to celebrate love, let’s look at a popular Valentine’s Day treat: chocolate covered strawberries. You’ll usually find dipped berries at a market or specialty shop, but if you’d like to make your own, see this post on CHEFS Mix Blog.

In addition to those Valentine’s Day treats, it’s hard to beat a bowl of strawberries and cream and they are also delicious in shortcakes, puddings, trifles, and custards. What would the Fourth of July be like without fresh strawberry pie? Strawberries are an ideal topping on cereal and ice cream, and make a flavorful sorbet or shake. Some swear by the magic combination of strawberries and aged balsamic vinegar. They are also a tasty and colorful garnish. And don’t forget jams, preserves, and compotes!
Measuring equivalents
Ever wondered the best way to estimate how many berries you need for a recipe? Here’s a quick reference guide for fresh strawberries, taken from information on the websites Strawberryplants.org, Finecooking.com, and About.com:

  • 1.5 pounds = 1 quart or 2 pints or 4 cups
  • 1 quart weighing 1.5 pounds = 4 servings (1/2-inch slices or quartered)
  • 1 pint weighing 0.75 pound (about 12 large / 24 medium / 36 small berries) = 3.25 cups whole large to 2.5 cups whole small; 1.5 and 2.25 cups of sliced; 1.25 and 1.67 cups pureed
  • 1 cup whole strawberries = about 4 ounces or a half cup pureed strawberries
  • 10 ounce package of frozen strawberries = 1.5 cups
  • 10 ounce package of frozen strawberries in syrup = 1.25 cups
  • 20 ounce package of frozen whole strawberries = 4 cups
  • 20 ounce package of frozen whole strawberries = 2.5 cups sliced
  • 20 ounce package of frozen whole strawberries = 2.25 cups pureed
For more about Strawberries visit CHEFS Mix
CHEFS Mix a blog at CHEFS

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