Local strawberries are on their way out, but several vendors at our markets still have a few. And the California crop was humongous this year, so we do have a bounty of these berries on hand.
Since they are so widely available, there's no reason to settle for inferior baskets of these sweet treats. Here are some tips about choosing strawberries, from an article we (Mary Ann Barnes and I) wrote last spring for Whole Living Journal:
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.
Also here's a re-post of a favorite spring salad of mine that uses strawberries and another ingredient now at the markets, arugula.
Recipe: Arugula salad with strawberries and walnuts
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 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 walnuts in a large bowl and add dressing, tossing to coat arugula. Divide into salad bowls or plates, sprinkle with cheese and serve.