The widespread affection for strawberries dates back centuries. "Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did," wrote 16th century British author William Butler. While the love affair with the luscious strawberry is nothing new, lately people are falling for a different reason: The berry has fewer carbohydrates and calories than most other fruits and is a nutritional dynamo.
There is nothing quite like fresh strawberries eaten out of the hand: sweet, juicy and bursting with flavor. FoodFit Executive Chef Bonnie Moore has fond memories of going strawberry-picking as little girl.
"My mother and grandmother had a system," she recalls. "The very best, ripest, juiciest berries you ate that night. You froze some. Then everything that came out of the kitchen for the next several days had strawberries in it."
Strawberries are fully ripe at the market, so to preserve that fresh-picked taste, keep them loosely covered in the refrigerator. Only wash what you plan to eat.
People often sprinkle a little sugar on sliced berries to enhance the flavor. A splash of balsamic vinegar or a squeeze of orange juice also works great. Serve the fruit at room temperature for maximum flavor.
Eight medium-sized strawberries have just 50 calories; no fat, cholesterol or sodium; and four grams of dietary fiber. They also contain a whopping 160 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin C, 16 percent of the Daily Value for folic acid and even four percent of the Daily Value for iron.
In addition, strawberries contain health-promoting antioxidants such as anthocyanins, which give the berries their red color. All in all, they are one of the most nutritious fruits you can eat.
Strawberries are a natural in fruit salads, but they taste great in green salads too.
The red berries pair well with fresh spinach or butter lettuce. Almonds, another nutritional powerhouse, and kiwi fruit are nice additions to a strawberry salad, says Chef Bonnie.
For the salad dressing, you can go tangy with a yogurt dressing or sweet with a raspberry or balsamic vinaigrette.
Chef Bonnie suggests sautéing strawberries for an unusual, delicious dessert.
"Halve your strawberries or slice them depending on the size, and sauté in a tiny bit of butter so they don't burn at the bottom of the pan. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar or orange juice and cook until the berries are wilted," she instructs. "They don't disintegrate; they get soft like a warm preserve."
You can add a dash of vanilla, cinnamon or black pepper to jazz up the dish. Serve the warm concoction over frozen yogurt.
Strawberries make great smoothies. If you don't have fresh berries on hand, use frozen ones and skip the ice.
Try these original FoodFit recipes:
Iced Strawberry Smoothie
Funky Fresh Fruit Kebabs
Strawberry Chiffon Pie
Fresh Strawberry Almond Tart
My Mother's Fruit Salad