Food and Fitness Fundamentals
You know summer time is here when the abundance of strawberries appear! June and early July is the peak harvest season for our local Willamette Valley strawberries. This is the time to drop everything and race out to your backyard garden, farmers market, food stands and local grocery stores to gather up one, two, or three flats of these succulent treasures.
When choosing your fruit, look for berries that are deep red in color, plump, firm and free of blemishes with bright green tops to help ensure good quality and ripeness. This is one fruit where buying organic is recommended, as it tends to harbor pesticides. Once home, there are many options in how to prepare these coveted gems. Eating fresh is always the best choice for people who want instant gratification. However, if you want to continue to enjoy these delightful treats throughout the year, you can easily freeze, dry or preserve them into jams and jellies.
Interestingly, strawberries are actually a member of the rose family and are not truly a berry or fruit, but instead an enlarged receptacle of the flower. Strawberries are packed with nutrition. One cup (8-10 fresh) provides about 50 calories and is a rich source of vitamin C, fiber, folate, potassium, manganese as well as antioxidants. They fat free, cholesterol free and sodium free. Learn more from Cooking Light.
Growing your own strawberries is quite easy. Good soil and drainage, proper planting, occasional fertilizing and regular watering along with full sun are all you need. Once plugged in, strawberry plants will continue to produce for 3-4 years. When a decline of production is noted, it is time to replace with a fresh crop. If space allows, rotating your fruits and vegetables in your garden is always recommended as this aids in preventing unwanted diseases.
A big question while choosing a variety is how often would you like your strawberry season to last. Depending on how often you want to harvest, there are three varieties to choose from
June- bearing strawberries supply a large crop which is harvested in June and early July.
Ever-bearing provides two crops, one in summer the other in fall.
Day-neutrals offer a continuous crop from spring until frost, but are less abundant.
I personally enjoy growing day-neutrals, as it allows daily trips out to my garden with the return of fresh flavorful –perfectly ripened strawberries for several months.
Strawberries are a quick and healthy snack to eat alone, or incorporate into a meal. For more recipe ideas, click here.