The strawberry is one of the most popular berry fruits in the world. There are more than 10 different species and they are all slightly different in flavour, size and texture but they all have that gorgeous heart-shaped, red flesh and little seeds coating them, with leafy green caps on top. The strawberry has been hailed as "the queen of fruits" because of its rich nutritional value. Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamins C and K, magnesium, potassium, folic acid, calcium, fibre and more. They also contain phytonutrients and flavanoids which are responsible for making strawberries bright red. Their leaves can also be eaten, raw or cooked. Strawberries are my all time favourite fruit and I could eat them every day and with every meal. I even pop them into my salad. Keep reading and I will share my delicious summer strawberry salad recipe below.
Strawberries aren't technically a fruit, as their seeds are on the outside. There are about 200 yellow seeds all over the outside of each strawberry. The “seeds" you see on the outside of a strawberry are actually the plant's ovaries. Each “seed" is technically a separate fruit that has a seed inside of it. Despite all this confusion about strawberry seeds, most strawberries are not actually grown from seeds! As strawberry plants grow, they send out thin growths called "runners". These runners look like strings. When they reach the ground, they send roots into the soil. The roots produce new strawberry plants.
The 'berry' part is obvious, I found a couple of theories. The most common is based on the practice of growing the plants with a layer of straw mulch to help retain moisture, protect them from the cold, deter pests, and keep the berries cleaner for picking. Another theory is, it comes from 'stray' or 'strewn', explaining the spread of the plant's runners, the appearance of the plant being strewn across the ground with their runners straying everywhere.
- Anti-inflammatory: The wonderful variety of antioxidants and phytochemicals in strawberries help fight inflammatory disorders like arthritis, gout, asthma and cancer.
- Cardiovascular Health and Blood Pressure: Strawberries are great for heart health, their antioxidants help lower LDL (the bad cholesterol). They contain potassium which regulates blood pressure.
- Bone Health: Strawberries contain potassium, magnesium and vitamin K which are beneficial for bone health and strengthening bones to prevent breakage.
- Cancer Prevention: Vitamin C in strawberries helps in cancer prevention by boosting our immunity.
- Eye Health: Several research articles I read suggested strawberries can lower the risk of macular degeneration and are helpful in the prevention of cataracts.
- Pre-natal Health: Strawberries are a good source of folate, a B vitamin required by pregnant women or those trying to conceive.
- Anti-aging: Strawberries are rich in Vitamin C which is involved in the production of collagen.
- Hair Health: The strawberry offers huge benefits for our hair. It's one of the top fruits in terms of its rich variety of antioxidants and vitamins, and can help with hair loss, thinning and can help cure dandruff.
STRAWBERRY & PEACH SPINACH SALAD
1 sml red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
3 Tbsp finely shredded basil leaves
¼ cup coconut vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
¼ cup avocado or olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper
150g baby spinach leaves
1 continental cucumber, peeled and sliced
10 Lge strawberries, sliced
3 med peaches, cut into thin wedges
1 avocado, roughly diced
100g prosciutto, torn (optional)
Combine onion, basil, vinegar, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add spinach, cucumber, peaches, strawberries and avocado to a salad bowl and gently mix. Add the onion and dressing mixture and gently mix through to coat the salad. Optional, add torn prosciutto pieces evenly through the salad.
STRAWBERRY & LIME SMOOTHIE
1 cup/140g fresh strawberries (if you use frozen, reduce or omit the ice)
1 cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp almond butter/spread
2 tsp golden flaxseed (ground)
1 tsp lime zest
1 tsp organic vanilla extract
1 tsp 100% maple syrup, or to taste
1 cup ice cubes
Add all the above ingredients to a high-speed blender. Blend on high until you reach a smooth and creamy texture. Add a little extra milk or filtered water if you prefer a thinner consistency. Pour into a glass and serve (I like to add a little extra lime zest on top to stir through).
Check out this delicious Strawberry Cream Cheesecake (dairy-free) on my website.
Choose berries that are firm, plump, unblemished and free of mould. Look for those that have a shiny, deep red colour and bright green caps attached. Once picked strawberries do not ripen further, so avoid those that are dull in colour. These days strawberries are sprayed quite heavily with pesticides, so if possible choose organic. To remove the pesticides, wash your strawberries in a bowl of water with 2 tablespoons of white vinegar (leave the green leaves intact to prevent the fruit getting water logged). Allow the strawberries to soak for 15 minutes and rinse with clean filtered water. Then pop them back into clean water and vinegar for a further 1 - 2 minutes, this time don't rinse. Drain the strawberries and wait until they are completely dry and then store in the fridge. The vinegar/water mixture also kills any mould spores on the strawberries and keeps them fresh for much longer. The vinegar doesn't affect the taste. (This works for all kinds of berries). You can freeze strawberries. Wash and dry the strawberries, then trim the tops and arrange them cut-side down on a lined tray. Freeze for 1 hour or until firm, then transfer to sealable bags and store for up to 3 months.
Enjoy the abundant strawberry season we are having at the moment and the cheap prices we are experiencing. Think about the huge amount of nutrients you will be popping into your mouth with each sweet treat.
By Susan Joy