I love strawberries. Not only are they fabulous for the body, but they are absolutely gorgeous. And, unlike many things in life, they are really low maintenance. Want to eat a strawberry? Wash it off and go to town. Same with raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, mulberries (my latest discovery)… all versatile enough to be included in all kinds of dishes, while also delicious enough to be simply eaten out of hand.
It’s the end of the strawberry season here in Madison. We’ve had an incredibly wet June, which further shortened the already brief season. Though we will probably still be able to get a couple more pints of gemlike fruit this weekend, after that it’s so long until next year! I made a batch of strawberry rhubarb jam last week, and froze another pint or two. Time to stock and eat up!
My friend Casey gave me my first local strawberry of the year, right out of her backyard. As we savored the succulent sweetness and picked seeds out of our teeth, we noticed that the inside of her backyard berries did not have the white interior lining that the organic strawberries we sell at the Co-op (which come from CA) has. Why is that? Well, Google and I spent some quality time together trying to find out the answer.
First, here are some facts I learned about strawberries:
- The strawberry plant is a member of the Rose family.
- The largest producing state, California harvests 83% of the strawberries grown in the U.S. on approximately 24,500 acres. The peak growing season in CA is from December through July.
- The most common kind of strawberry plant grown in WI are June bearers, hence the short season.
- One cup of strawberries contains over 100 mg of vitamin C, almost as much as a cup of orange juice. We need vitamin C for immune system function and for strong connective tissue. Strawberries also add a bit of calcium, magnesium, folate and potassium and only 53 calories. (http://nutrition.about.com/od/healthyfood1/a/berries.htm)
- The strawberry is not classified by botanists as a true berry. True berries, such as blueberries and cranberries have seeds inside. The strawberry, however has its dry, yellow “seeds” on the outside (each of which is actually considered a separate fruit). (http://www.pickyourown.org/strawberryfacts.htm)
- Native Americans called strawberries “heart-seed berries” and pounded them into their traditional corn-meal bread. Discovering the great taste of the Native Americans bread, colonists decided to create their own version, which became an American favorite that we all know and love .. Strawberry Shortcake.
I also discovered a berry I’d never heard of, called the “Pineberry.” It’s a white strawberry with red seeds that tastes like pineapple… yum! Definitely something I’ll have to try to grow in the future.
The answer to Casey and my question continues to elude me. What I do know is that strawberries go from green to white to red as they ripen… and the strawberries we get from CA certainly were picked earlier in their ripening stage than the ones that practically dripped summertime into our mouths in Casey’s backyard. Perhaps the white insides are a throwback from that extended, off the vine ripening? That’s my best guess.
I hope all of you in the position to enjoy some fresh local strawberries are doing so… and its bff rhubarb as well!