All About Strawberries

Whether you’re adding strawberries to your breakfast cereal or yogurt, using them to prepare vinaigrette for your salad, or eating them as a healthy dessert, these plump, sweet berries can enhance many meals. Strawberries are rich in dietary fiber and vitamin C; in fact, they have more vitamin C than any other berry. Strawberries are at their peak from April through July, but these days you can find delicious berries in your supermarket year round. You can start enjoying strawberries on Phase 2 of the South Beach Diet.

Buying strawberries: Strawberries do not ripen any further once they’ve been picked, so it’s best to buy fully ripe ones and use them within a few days of purchase. Avoid choosing strawberries that are dull in color, have green or yellow splotches or mold on the skin, or have berry stains on the bottom of the box; these are signs that the berries have passed their peak ripeness. Seek out berries that are grown locally or are sold in farmers’ markets, as they tend to be fresher and they’re less likely to be bruised. Perfectly ripe berries should be richly red, plump, and uniform in color.

Storing strawberries: Be sure to discard any mushy or overripe strawberries, since they may cause others to spoil more quickly. Don't rinse the berries until you're ready to eat them — washing them ahead of time can lead to spoilage. Store and chill strawberries in the refrigerator or freeze them. To freeze strawberries, spread them out in a single layer on a plate or cookie sheet and put them in the freezer until just frozen. Once they are frozen, transfer the berries to resealable freezer bags, label with the date, and return them to the freezer, where they can be kept for up to a year.

Preparing strawberries: When you're ready to eat your berries, rinse them well with water (to remove any pesticide residue) with the leafy cap intact. (Removing the cap before washing will cause the berries to absorb water.) Using a paring knife, remove the leafy cap and the white "hull." Once cleaned, the strawberries are ready to be eaten on their own or used as an ingredient in a variety of dishes. As an occasional treat, try whole strawberries dipped in a bit of melted dark chocolate.

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