Strawberries! By Susan Wanderman

Just about everyone loves strawberries, but I’ll bet you didn’t know many of these interesting facts about the delicious summer treat.

Why are they called strawberries? According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac website there are various possible explanations:

– woodland pickers carried them to market on straw
– the surface of the strawberry looks like it has pieces of straw in it
– the name could have been from the Old English word meaning “strew,” because the runners from the strawberry plant stray in all directions and look like they were strewn on the ground

Statistics show that in 2011 the United States was the leading country in world strawberry production, producing 1,312,960 tons of strawberries, followed by Turkey with 302,416 tons, and Spain with 262,730 tons. Strawberry festivals, strawberry organizations and strawberry contests abound! The California Polytech College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences has even started a Strawberry Sustainability Research and Education Center.

Strawberries are a member of the rose family. While it is not actually a botanical berry or fruit, a strawberry is the enlarged receptacle of the flower. Strawberries were valued in ancient Rome, and the wild varieties were grown for centuries in Europe and the Americas using wild strawberries’ runners. In the mid 1700’s, the predecessors of today’s most common garden variety strawberry were first cultivated.

A medium strawberry has 4 calories, no fat, cholesterol or sodium. It has vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants, and is said to increase good cholesterol and lower blood pressure. One serving of around 8 strawberries contains more vitamin C than an orange!

There are so many uses for strawberries. According to the California Strawberry Commission, strawberries can be substituted for tomatoes, pureed as a substitute for vinegar in salad dressing, roasted as a sandwich ingredient or condiment, or served as a sauce for cured meats as well as chicken, duck, ham, salmon and pork.

One of my favorite recipes for strawberries, if they haven’t been consumed first of course, is to dip them in chocolate by melting semi-sweet chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler and adding a bit of vegetable oil. Another delicious option is a trifle, which is made by layering cake, pudding, whipped cream and any fruit or berries you like in a glass bowl.

Happy summer strawberry season to all!

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