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Stem Strawberries

Legend has it we can thank clever children for naming of the Sweet Red Strawberry. After picking the fruit, children strung them on glass straws and sold them "by the straw".

"Straw of berries" are now sold by the pint, or consumer 1 pound, but we'll still call them strawberries.

Every country has its own language – and its own unique way of serving strawberries. In Venice, strawberries are served with a wedge of lemon and sugar. Berry flavor in France is sharpened with a splash of red wine vinegar. In Greece, they are half-dipped in cheese fondant and served on polished leaves. In America, we like simple things – strawberries just "as is", or served with cream.

Strawberries are a romantic fruit, shaped like a heart and colored red; the strawberry is a natural symbol of love. But we weren't the first to see its romantic nature – the strawberry was sacred to Frigg, the northern goddess of love.

The Native Americans crushed strawberries into a mortar mixed them with meal and made a strawberry bread. After trying this bread, the colonists developed their own version, and the famous summer dessert, strawberry short cake, was born.

California produces 83% of the nations strawberries, providing almost a year-round supply. The California strawberry season begins in January in southern California and continues through November in the northern part of the state. Peak California season occurs in April, May, and June. Florida is the other major source with the season beginning in December and running through March.

Strawberries flourish when the growing conditions are warm, sunny days and cool foggy nights.All strawberries are picked, sorted and packed by hand in the field. The trays of strawberries are then rushed to shipping facilities where they are cooled down to about 34°F. Within 24 hours of harvest, the strawberries are loaded onto refrigerated trucks for delivery to a store near you. Stem strawberries are picked a little different than the rest. The runners coming off the strawberry plant are cut leaving a long stem on the strawberry. This takes a lot more time when they are picked. The largest and more premium berries are also picked for the stem varieties.

Strawberry flavor is influenced by growing conditions (weather), stage of ripeness when harvested, and variety. Size is not a factor in determining flavor.

Since strawberries do not ripen after harvesting, you should select plump strawberries with a natural sheen, bright red coloring and fresh-looking caps. Once you reach home, store strawberries in the refrigerator in a ventilated container. Just before using, wash strawberries with the caps attached under a gentle spray of cool water. It is very important to follow this rule, because if you wash or clean them ahead of time, they will break-down and deteriorate. For best flavor, allow strawberries to reach room temperature before serving. Stem strawberries are great for dipping into chocolate and then into crushed nuts. For a lo-cal treat, just dip into a lo-fat yogurt, using the long stem as your dipper.

Strawberries are only 50 calories per serving with no cholesterol or saturated fats, making them a great healthy snack or addition to any meal.

Eight medium strawberries provide 96 milligrams of Vitamin C – more than 150 percent of the recommended daily intake.

Strawberries are also rich in folic acid, a vital nutrient that can help prevent devastating birth defects, and help decrease the risks of some types of cancer. Strawberries are also a good source of fiber. Stem strawberries make a great Valentine Day Gift! So Enjoy!


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