LEARN HOW TO GROW, WHERE TO FIND AND WHAT TO MAKE WITH THE BEST FRUIT EVER.
By Bailey Gilliam
Jellies, salad dressings, muffins, smoothies, ice cream and even face masks. Strawberries are back in season and it’s time to incorporate America’s favorite berry back into your fruitful routine. From its bright red, juicy appearance to its versatility in preparation, strawberries’ flavor and fragrance are so alluring, they have become a popular choice for bath products, candles and even whimsical scratch-and-sniff stickers.
The strawberry originated in Europe in the 18th century, but what we eat today is a hybrid of two wild strawberry species from North America and Chile. Technically strawberries are an aggregate accessory fruit, meaning that the fleshy part is derived not from the plant’s ovaries but from the receptacle that holds the ovaries. Each “seed,” or achene, on the outside is one of the ovaries of the flower with a seed inside.
Strawberries are most often consumed fresh and raw or made into jams or toppings. They make a great addition to smoothies and beverages, salads, salsas, waffles and pancakes, oatmeal and cereal and baked goods. To ensure your strawberries don’t go bad, don’t cut them until you are ready to use or eat them. You can eat the stem too, but if that’s not your style, save the stems for infusing drinks and sauces or blend them into a smoothie.
Strawberries are low in calories, have ample health benefits and still have that delicious flavor sweet enough to satisfy even the sweetest of sweet tooths. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese and also contain vitamin B9 and potassium. Small amounts of iron, copper, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamins B6, K and E are also present in this wonder fruit. Rich in antioxidants and plant compounds, which may have benefits for heart health and blood sugar control, strawberries may improve blood antioxidant status, decrease oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, improve vascular function, improve your blood lipid profile and reduce the harmful oxidation of bad cholesterol. They also may decrease your risk of heart disease and cancer. In the 18th century, strawberries were believed to treat depression.
The June full moon is called the Strawberry Moon because when this moon appears, it signals that it’s time to start harvesting. Strawberries are easy to grow in almost all climates and soils across the United States and Canada, as long as they are planted in locations that get full sun, as strawberries require six to 10 hours a day of direct sunlight. Strawberry plants come in three types: June-bearing, ever-bearing and day-neutral. For the home garden June-bearing varieties are the easiest to grow. They will grow in any soil type, but they prefer loamy soil that drains and raised garden beds. Space the plants 18 inches apart and leave four feet between rows. Be careful not to plant them too deep. The roots should be covered, but the crown should be right at the soil’s surface. To ensure that the roots are settled, water right at the time of planting. It is important to be diligent about weeding your garden when dealing with strawberries. Add mulch to your strawberry beds with any type of mulch, and gritty mulch with sand can deter slugs and bugs. Harvesting can be done four to six weeks after blossoming. Only harvest fully red berries and pick them every three days. Be sure to cut them by the stem and avoid pulling, as this could damage the plant. For June-bearing strawberries the harvest will last for up to three weeks. Growing your strawberries can be very rewarding because the taste is far more flavorful than what you’ll ever find in grocery-store strawberries. The sugar in berries converts to starch soon after they’re picked. Unwashed strawberries can be stored in the refrigerator for three to five days. Whole frozen strawberries will last for about two months. LL
• Farmers Market of Bluffton: Purchase locally grown strawberries from noon to 5 p.m. on Thursdays in Old Town Bluffton. Tuten Farm, Adam’s Farm, Wills Lowcountry Produce and the Schuler Peach Company (which sells exclusively strawberries and peaches) are just a few of the vendors that could have some of the freshest strawberries you’ll ever taste.
• Strawberry patches: If you’re willing to make a small road trip, hit up some strawberry patches and pick your own. Dempsey Farms U-Pick or Barefoot Farms on St. Helena Island, John Marti in Rincon, Bamboo Farm & Coastal Gardens in Savannah, Geechie Boy Market & Mill on Edisto Island, or L&R Farms Produce in Guyton are just some of the patches nearby.
STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER
Try planting different varieties of strawberries. Each will respond differently to conditions, and you will have a range of fruits to enjoy.
• Sable: Best suited for early season and has great flavor
• Primetime: Best adapted to the mid-Atlantic, disease resistant and has a mild flavor
• Cardinal: The most popular variety in the South
• Camarosa: The most popular west coast variety
• Tristar: A day-neutral variety that’s well-suited for hanging baskets
After you pick them, clean strawberries with vinegar. Vinegar destroys bacteria and mold spores and keeps the berries fresher for longer. Mix three cups of cold water and one cup of vinegar in a large bowl. Let it sit for five minutes. Add the whole strawberries and soak for five minutes. Rinse and drain them thoroughly with cold tap water. Pat dry with a clean towel. You won’t need to rinse them again before using or eating them.
Balsamic strawberry pizza with chicken
Move over pineapple! Strawberries are the new fruit to add to your pizza. Strawberries, chicken and basil go so well together, you’ll forget all about Hawaiian pizza.
1/2 cup strawberry preserves or jam
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Sriracha chili sauce
1 ball prepared pizza dough
1 grilled chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup shredded Italian blend cheese
1/4 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
Directions  Place the pizza stone or pizza pan in the lower middle of the oven and heat to 500 degrees.  Bring the balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer until reduced to half and the mixture thickens, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the strawberry preserves and chili sauce. Mix well; set aside to cool.  Roll out pizza dough to a 12-14 inch circle. Transfer to a piece of parchment paper lightly dusted with cornmeal.  In a small bowl, combine the chicken with 2 tablespoons of the balsamic mixture and stir to coat all of the chicken. Spread the rest of the sauce over top of the pizza dough, leaving about a 1-inch border around the edge.  Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the shredded cheese evenly over the sauce. Scatter the chicken pieces on top. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese and add some burrata cheese in larger dollops on top.  Transfer the pizza with the parchment paper onto the preheated baking sheet or stone and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly for 1-2 minutes. Top with fresh strawberries and basil. Drizzle with balsamic if desired. Serve hot.
Strawberry mango salsa
Add some sweet and spicy to your salsa. Strawberries and mangos combined with jalapeno make a glorious salsa taste that you won’t even need chips for you to enjoy.
3/4 cup diced strawberries
3/4 cup diced mango
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons diced red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons honey, or more to taste
Juice of 1 lime
Directions  In a large bowl, combine strawberries, mango, jalapeno, onion, cilantro, honey and lime juice.  Serve immediately.
Spaghetti ice cream
We know it sounds disgusting, but hear us out. It’s a delicious ice cream concoction made to look like spaghetti made popular in Germany. You may not be able to travel there to get your fix, but we’ve got a recipe that comes pretty close.
Cake batter or vanilla ice cream
Directions  To prepare, place serving bowls and a potato ricer (or spaetzle maker if you have one) in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. Let your ice cream of choice sit out for a few minutes to get slightly soft.  Remove your bowls and potato ricer from the freezer. Spray or dollop whipped cream on the base of the bowl.  Make your noodles by spooning ice cream and pressing it through the potato ricer onto the pile of whipped cream. Repeat until the whipped cream is completely covered and it looks as though you have a pile of pasta noodles.  For the spaghetti sauce, pour strawberry sauce on top followed by fresh strawberries.  For the Parmesan, sprinkle shaved almonds on top. Serve immediately.