Jun 28 2011

Fresh from the Market: Strawberries

The Fresh from the Market posts have gone by the wayside for awhile--but not without awareness on this end!  Every time we cook something exciting or try a seasonal ingredient, I wish there was more time to set up lights, create a tempting composition, and photograph it, but more times than not, we’re halfway through eating before a guilty feeling creeps in!

I hope to have product profiles for zucchini and fava beans within the next week.  First though, I want to share a product profile about strawberries--yes, what we’ve now been devouring for the past 2-3 weeks.  The season seems extended this year, so you can still go to the market and pick up a few pints before they’re replaced by blueberries, raspberries, and soon, peaches.


Belonging to the rose family, strawberries’ seeds grow on the exterior rather than the interior of the plant.  Strawberries received their name from the straw that was traditionally used as mulch around the flowering plant.

Wild strawberries have existed for over 2,000 years. There are over 600 strawberry varieties today, though you’ll probably choose between just a few varieties at your market.

Flavor Profile:

Juicy, sweet, and refreshing!

In the Kitchen:

Two words to keep in mind:  fragile and perishable!

Choose berries that are firm and deeply red.  Once strawberries are picked, they stop ripening, so don’t buy pinkish ones thinking that they’ll ripen on your kitchen counter:  they’ll just rot!

Once you buy your pint(s) of berries, you should be ready to eat or cook with them nearly immediately.  Sure, you can put them in your refrigerator, but be prepared for that sweet taste to transform into something sour and watery.

The maximum amount of time you should wait until eating the berries is a mere two days.  This is not just for taste reasons, but also because strawberries' numerous health benefits (antioxidants and Vitamin C) start to disappear as well.

If you have too many strawberries and fear they’ll start to rot before you eat them, do what I’ve done:  freeze them!  To freeze:  hull them (remove the top and cut a small circle into the top), then arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and put them in the freezer. Once the berries are frozen, store them in an airtight container or a freezer bag in your freezer for up to 6 months.

Growing Season:

Strawberries are planted as soon as the ground can be dug into (March or April).

Depending on the kind of berry--June bearing, ever bearing, or day neutral--they’re planted in a matted row, spaced row, or hill system.

Strawberries thrive in sunlight, needing about 6 hours a day.

In the Northeast, you’ll start to see strawberries at farmers markets from early May through early July.  I’m suspect of any I see before then and weary of any I see after.  If you do buy berries in mid July, you’ll want to eat them immediately (while walking home, even!) because they’ll already be in the process of rotting due the time they’ve been off the vine.

Interesting Links:

If you needed another reason to shop organically and locally:  Which foods have the most pesticides sprayed on them?  Strawberries are third on the list!

Good news for Maine:  strawberry season is bountiful!

How did strawberries & cream become synonymous with Wimbledon?


There’s nothing wrong with just eating them as is--but don’t make plans to eat half and then use the other half for something:  you’ll just end up eating them all!

From Cheery Observations:

Strawberry Pancakes

Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Strawberry Shortcake

Other Ideas:

Strawberry Muffins

Vegan Strawberry Shortcake

Arugula Salad with Strawberries

Resources:  WH Foods, Wikipedia, The Produce Bible