It is almost time for local farms to open up their strawberry patches for picking.
Strawberries make a great snack and complement any meal. They are low in calories and have more vitamin C than an equal amount of orange slices. One cup contains 150 percent of vitamin C per day, whereas oranges, still a very good source, contain 100 percent.
Strawberries also have 3 grams of fiber per cup as well as manganese, folate and potassium. They also are packed with phytonutrients lutein, zeaxanthin, ellagic acid and anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are the pigment that makes strawberries red.
We can enjoy one cup of strawberries for only 50 calories. Sugar adds another 50 calories for each tablespoon sprinkled on the berries.
After picking strawberries it is best to not wash them until you are ready to eat them. Store them in the refrigerator unwashed for one to three days, then rinse with water right before eating.
There are lots of ways to enjoy strawberries. Slice and top your morning toast or whole grain English muffin, or slice and add to a salad, or make infused water by adding whole strawberries and a sliced lemon to a pitcher of cold water. Store in the refrigerator and watch the water turn pink.
The uses for strawberries are endless. Let kids become creative and find ways to enjoy them. If you want to enjoy strawberries you pick today for Thanksgiving, consider freezing them.
To freeze whole berries without sugar, wash, cap and drain the berries. Tray freezing will prevent the berries from sticking together. Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet or jelly roll pan and freeze until solid. Then transfer them to plastic freezer bags pressing out as much air as possible. The expansion of frozen water in the berry will rupture its cell walls causing the berry to soften when thawed. Therefore, these taste best when eaten in a slightly thawed state with a few ice crystals remaining.
To freeze whole, sliced or crushed strawberries in sugar, add 3/4 cup sugar to 1 quart strawberries. Stir until most of the sugar is dissolved and let stand for 15 minutes before putting into containers. Soft sliced berries will yield sufficient syrup for covering if the fruit is layered with sugar and allowed to stand 15 minutes.
Artificial sweeteners may be used to freeze berries, but they do not provide the beneficial effects of sugar such as color protection and thickness of syrup. Use the manufacturer’s directions to determine the amount of artificial sweetener to use. Artificial sweeteners can also be added after the berries are thawed.
Uncooked fresh strawberry jam
1 3⁄4 cups crushed strawberries (about 1 quart)
4 cups sugar
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 pouch liquid pectin (3 oz.)
Measure 1 3/4 cups of crushed strawberries. Place in an extra-large bowl.
Add sugar, mix well, and let stand for 10 minutes. Measure lemon juice into a small bowl.
Add liquid pectin and stir well.
Stir into fruit and continue stirring for 3 minutes. Pour jam into freezer containers or canning jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.
Yields approximately 4 half-pint jars.
For a copy of the Penn State Extension’s “Let’s Preserve” fact sheets, call 570-825-1701.
Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford Counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at firstname.lastname@example.org