Strawberries

Strawberries ~ Super Fruits

The fragrantly sweet juiciness and deep red color of these, can brighten up both the taste and aesthetics of any meal.

It's no wonder they're the most popular berry fruit in the world.

Although these super berries have become increasingly available year-round, they're at the peak of their season from April through July when they're the most delicious and most abundant.

While there are more than 600 varieties of these berries that differ in flavor, size and texture, we can usually identify this super berry by its red flesh that has yellow seeds piercing its surface, and the small, regal, green leafy cap and stem that adorns it's crown.

In addition to strawberries that are cultivated, there are also varieties that grow wild.

These are much smaller in size, but feature a more intense flavor.

Health Benefits

These super berries not only look like a fruity heart-shaped valentine, they're filled with unusual phytonutrients that love to promote your health.

The anthocyanins in these berries not only provide its flush red color, they also serve as potent antioxidants that have repeatedly been shown to help protect cell structures in the body and to prevent oxygen damage in all of the body's organ systems.

Their unique phenol content makes them a heart-protective fruit, an anti-cancer fruit and an anti-inflammatory fruit, all rolled into one.

Strawberry Phytonutrients that Promote Optimal Health

The ellagitannin content of these super berries has actually been associated with decreased rates of cancer death.

In one study, strawberries topped a list of eight foods most linked to lower rates of cancer deaths among a group of over 1,000 elderly people.

Those eating the most super berries were three times less likely to develop cancer compared to those eating fewer or none.

Protection against Macular Degeneration

Your mother may have told you carrots would keep your eyes bright as a child, but as an adult, it looks like fruit is even more important for keeping your sight.

Data reported in a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology indicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.

Three servings of fruit may sound like a lot to eat each day, but strawberries can help you reach this goal.

Top your morning cereal, lunch time yogurt or cottage cheese with fresh super berries.

Dress up any green salad with sliced berries, slivered almonds and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

For an easy, elegant dessert, blend fresh or the frozen variety with a spoonful of honey and some soy or cow's milk or yogurt.

Freeze for 20 minutes, then spoon into serving cups and decorate with a sprig of mint.

How to Select & Store

As these super berries are very perishable, they should only be purchased a few days prior to use.

Choose berries that are firm, plump, free of mold, and which have a shiny, deep red color and attached green caps.

Since strawberries, once picked, don't ripen further, avoid those that are dull in color or have green or yellow patches since they're likely to be sour and of inferior quality.

Medium-sized are often more flavorful than those that are excessively large.

If you're buying them packaged in a container, make sure that they're not packed too tightly (which may cause them to become crushed and damaged) and that the container has no signs of stains or moisture, indication of possible spoilage.

Like all berries, these are very perishable, so great care should be taken in their handling and storage.

Before storing in the refrigerator, remove any that are moldy or damaged so they won't contaminate others.

Replace unwashed and un-hulled super berries in their original container or spread them out on a plate covered with a paper towel, then cover with plastic wrap.

They'll keep fresh in the refrigerator for one or two days.

Make sure not to leave them at room temperature or exposed to sunlight for too long, as this will cause them to spoil.

To freeze, first gently wash them and pat them dry.

You can either remove the cap and stem or leave them intact, depending upon what you'll do with them once they're thawed.

Arrange them in a single layer on a flat pan or cookie sheet and place them in the freezer.

Once frozen, transfer the berries to a heavy plastic bag and return them to the freezer where they'll keep for up to a year.

Adding a bit of lemon juice to your berries will help to preserve their color.

While strawberries can be frozen whole, cut or crushed, they'll retain a higher level of their vitamin-C content if left whole.

Tips for Preparation:

Since they're very perishable, strawberries should not be washed until right before eating or using in a recipe.

Don't remove their caps and stems until after you've gently washed the berries under cold running water and patted them dry.

This will prevent them from absorbing excess water, which can degrade their texture and flavor.

To remove the stems, caps and white hull, simply pinch these off with your fingers or use a paring knife.

Despite their perishable nature, these super berries do appear to hold up well in fruit salad if properly stored and chilled.

This is good news for those of us, like Marilyn and I, who are pressed for time but love fresh fruit salad.

And who doesn't since its a perfect addition to any meal and makes a great, crunchy, munchy snack or dessert?

It's been thought that cut fruit rapidly degrades, so fruit salad, which can take 15 minutes to prepare, would have to be freshly prepared to be good, but a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has found that minimal processing of fruit-cutting, packaging and chilling, does not significantly affect its nutritional content, even after 6 and up to 9 days.

In terms that you and I can understand, this means that you can prepare a large bowl of fruit salad on the weekend, store it in the refrigerator and enjoy it all week, receiving almost all the nutritional benefits of just prepared fruit salad.

Researchers cut up strawberries, pineapples, mangoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, and kiwi fruit.

The freshly cut fruits were then rinsed in water, dried, packaged in clamshells (not gastight) and stored at 41°F(5°C).

After 6 days, losses in vitamin-C were less than 5% in strawberry, mango, and watermelon pieces, 10% in pineapple pieces, 12% in kiwifruit slices, and 25% in cantaloupe cubes.

No losses in carotenoids were found in kiwifruit slices and watermelon cubes.

Strawberry, cantaloupe and mango pieces lost 10-15% while pineapples lost 25%.

Nutritional Profile

These super berries are an excellent source of vitamin-C and manganese.

They're also a very good source of dietary fiber.

Plus, they're are a good source of potassium, folate, vitamin-B2, vitamin-B5, vitamin-B6, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, copper, and vitamin-K.

They also contain an array of beneficial phytonutrients, including flavonoids, anthocyanidins and ellagic acid.

Strawberry & Kiwi Champagne Cocktails

Breakfast in bed wouldn’t be complete without celebratory cocktails!

This is a different twist on a mimosa.

The kids can get involved by mashing the fruit.

Serve it with apple cider for the kids and Champagne for you two, and everyone will be celebrating!

Makes 4 Servings

Ingredients:

1 c. chopped fresh strawberries, plus 4 whole for for garnish

3 kiwis, 2 cut in half, 1 peeled and sliced for garnish

1 bottle sparkling cider and/or Champagne

Preparation;

1. In a medium bowl, scoop out the insides of the 2 cut kiwis with a regular teaspoon.

Add the cut strawberries and mash the fruit with the back of a fork until a fairly smooth paste is formed.

2. Place about 1 Tbs. of the fruit paste in the bottom of each glass and fill with cider or Champagne.

Garnish with the whole strawberries and sliced kiwi.

And enjoy!

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