plump, sweet, berries are nutritional jewels: Rich in dietary fibre
and offering good amounts of vitamin C (more than any other berry) and
manganese, strawberries are also an excellent source of ellagic acid,
a phytochemical that helps combat carcinogens. They are also a good
source of antioxidant flavonoids, such as anthocynanins.
The strawberry is technically a "false" fruit because it grows
from the base rather than from the ovary of a flower, and so is not
a true berry.
For best flavour, buy strawberries when they're in season where you
live; they'll undoubtedly be riper and tastier than berries that have
been transported in from distant regions. Also, the closer the berries
are to the market, the less damage they're likely to suffer in transit,
ideally pick your own at one of the numerous farms.
Choose strawberries very carefully;
they are often packed in opaque boxes that may conceal inferior fruit
beneath a display of perfect specimens on top. If the box is cellophane
wrapped, your best bet is to examine the berries you can see, and check
the box for dampness or stains, which indicate that the fruit below
may be decaying. If the box is not wrapped, you can remove a few of
the top berries and peek beneath. Check, too, for twigs or other debris
(there shouldn't be any).
Strawberries should be plump,
dry, firm, well shaped and uniformly colored. Don't purchase berries
that are withered or crushed. The berries themselves should be a true,
rich red (although the shade of red differs among varieties). Pale,
greenish, or yellowish fruit is unripe and will be hard and sour. The
leafy caps should look fresh and green.
Strawberries are highly perishable; they can turn soft, mushy, and mouldy
within 24 hours. When you bring home a box of berries, empty it out
and check the fruit. Remove any soft, overripe strawberries for immediate
consumption; discard any smashed or mouldy berries and gently blot the
remainder dry with a paper towel. Return the berries to the box, or,
better yet, spread them on a shallow plate or pan and cover with paper
towels, then with plastic wrap. Freezing: Strawberries freeze
well, allowing you to enjoy them practically year round.
Pick over strawberries, discarding any bad ones. Keep the caps of strawberries
intact until after they're rinsed and drained, as the opening left by
the removal of the cap will allow the berries to absorb water. Rinse
the fruit, drain, and gently pat dry.
berries need not be thawed before using them in recipes, but extra cooking
time may be necessary. Commercially frozen berries do not require washing,
but home-frozen berries, which should not have been washed previously,
should be quickly rinsed under cold water.