Monday, May 17, 2010

A profusion of strawberries

It's strawberry season, and the especially good news is that the delicious red berries are having a prolific year. Apparently the crops in Florida and California have been so big this spring that prices are very low. That's why you're likely to see great sales on strawberries just about every week.

Of course, berries grown and harvested closer to home are going to be tastier. They're picked much closer to ripeness because they don't have to withstand all that shipping and still arrive looking appealing. Here in our market, I've only seen a couple of growers at Findlay Market who's had them yet this spring, but that's about to change. You should be finding local strawberries all around the area very soon.

Here's a short piece my healthy foodie colleague, Mary Ann Barnes, wrote for our column in Whole Living Journal last spring.

Strawberries: How to select the best ones

Have you ever been seduced into buying a carton of big, fat, shiny strawberries only to take them home and feel like you’re eating damp cardboard? Experiences like that make us eye those bright red temptresses with a little more skepticism the next time we cross the produce aisle of the grocery. However, there are a few tips to selecting strawberries to assure your family the best taste and nutritional benefit.

The first word of advice is to look for fruit that is not damaged, soft, or have liquids on the bottom. Strawberries do not ripen once picked. Make certain the red coloration extends all the way to a snug green cap of leaves.

Mendelian genetics have been used by local farmers and agribusiness to improve crop production by making produce more resistant to pests and selecting out the specimens that yield the largest volume and quality of fruit. At times, these genetic modifications have come at the expense of taste and nutrition.

Fortunately, the battalions of powerful antioxidants that make strawberries so legendary in nutrition circles are also the source of the wonderful sweet fragrance that awakens our senses. You can find me shamelessly sniffing at each variety proffered at local groceries. If they smell good to the nose, they’ll be even better on the palate.

Try this salad as a way to enjoy them.

Recipe: Spring Salad with Strawberries, Goat Cheese and Pecans
Serves 4


2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons walnut oil

3 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 cups arugula, rinsed and patted dry

2 cups strawberries, sliced

½ cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted

½ cup shaved good quality Parmesan cheese, or more to taste


Combine oils and vinegar in a small bowl and whisk vigorously to blend.

Add salt and pepper to dressing and set aside.

Combine arugula, strawberries and nuts in a large bowl and add dressing, tossing to coat arugula. Divide into salad bowls or plates, sprinkle with cheese and serve.

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