By Deborah Eisenhut

 

When we visited southern California in the 80’s, there were strawberry fields as far as the eyes could see, and the bright red berries were as big as lemons.  Years later I was so saddened to see condos had replaced many of those produce fields, however California still remains the largest producer of the fruit with Florida running second.

 

Strawberries are cultivated worldwide and very popular in many states as farmers grow “pick your own” fields open to the public during the spring and summer growing seasons.  A specific climate is necessary for this first fruit of the season to be abundant, some reaching the size of apples. Most popular of course are the very red berries but they can be yellow, white, blue, black and purple in color. Each berry has over 200 seeds, the only fruit to have seeds on the outside, and each seed is capable of producing fruit.  The strong fragrance from strawberries comes from it belonging to the rose family.  In both ancient Rome and with Native Americans, strawberries were thought to have medicinal powers.  There is no question they are rich in antioxidants and are rated a highly nutritious addition in any diet.  In the winter months, 83% of U.S. strawberries are imported from Mexico and over 85% of surplus U.S. berry production is exported to Canada.  I am not sure I understand the agricultural confines of it all but I certainly love the fruit.

 

It is easy to grow strawberries in a home garden but the berries are loved by birds and bugs alike so vigilance is needed.  Strawberries are best eaten fresh and raw, especially good in green salads but they can be baked in desserts and breads as well.  Try the following easy recipes and enjoy the National Strawberry month of May (as well as June) with good healthy eats.

 

Strawberry Salsa

½ ounce balsamic vinegar           1/8 tsp black pepper

½ ounce honey                             1 pound diced strawberries

¼ tsp salt                                       zest of one lemon

1 Tbls finely chopped fresh basil

In a large bowl whisk together vinegar, honey, s&p to combine. Add strawberries, basil and lemon zest and stir to incorporate.  Refrigerate covered until ready to serve.  Serve with pita or corn chips or as a dessert topping.

 

Strawberry Avocado Salad

2 Tbls sugar                                 1 tsp lemon juice

2 Tbls olive oil                               2 cups torn salad greens

4 tsp honey                                   1 avocado, peel, pit & slice

1 Tbls apple cider vinegar             10-15 berries sliced

½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts

In small bowl whisk sugar, olive oil, honey, vinegar & lemon juice.  Set aside.  Place greens in pretty bowl, top with avocado & strawberries.  Drizzle dressing over all and sprinkle with nuts.   Serve immediately or refrigerate up to two hours.

 

 

 

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

 

2 cups crushed pretzels               1 (8 oz) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

¾ cup butter, melted                    2 (3 oz) pkg strawberry Jello

3 Tbls white sugar                        2 cups boiling water

1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, softened               2 (10 oz) pkg frozen strawberries or 1 pint fresh

1 cup white sugar                                             strawberries sliced

Preheat oven to 400.  Stir together crushed pretzels, melted butter and 3 Tbls sugar.  Mix well and press into bottom of 9X13 baking dish.  Bake 8-10 minutes set aside to cool.  In a large mixing bowl cream the cream cheese and 1 cup of sugar.  Fold in whipped topping. Spread mixture onto cooled crust.  Dissolve gelatin in boiling water, stir in frozen strawberries.  If using fresh, make sure they are very cold.  When mix is consistency of egg whites, pour carefully over cream cheese layer and refrigerate until set.

 

Strawberry Daiquiri

 

6 cups ice                                               ¾ cup good rum

½ cup white sugar                                 ½ cup sprite or lemonade

4 oz frozen strawberries

1/8 cup lime juice

In a blender combine ice, sugar, strawberries.  Pour in lime juice, rum and soda.  Blend until smooth Pour into wide rim glasses and garnish with fresh strawberries and mint.

 

Strawberry Bread

 

2 cups fresh strawberries                           1 tsp salt

3 1/8 cups all-purpose flour                       1 tsp baking soda

2 cups white sugar                                      1 ¼ cup peanut oil

1 Tbls ground cinnamon                              4 eggs beaten

1 ¼ cups chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter and flour two 9X5 loaf pans.  Slice strawberries in small bowl, sprinkle with sugar and set aside.  Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt & soda and mix well. Blend oil and eggs into strawberries.   Add strawberry mixture to flour mixture, just folding until dry ingredients are moistened.  Divide into pans and bake 45-50 minutes or until a clean toothpick from center.  Cool 10 minutes then turn out on rack and cool before slicing. Garnish with fresh sliced strawberries and powdered sugar.