It is probably only natural the strawberry, the first fruit to ripen every year (thus called “the taste of spring”), should be celebrated so early in the year.
Every Feb. 27 the nation recognizes the nutrition-packed fruit, rated the third best antioxidant U.S. food.
Strawberries are low calorie (one cup has only about 50 calories) and loaded with vitamins and fiber.
They have been shown to improve blood sugar regulation, reduce inflammation, cool fevers, provide cardiovascular support, prevent certain cancers, enhance cognitive and motor function and increase blood and oxygen flow to the muscles.
Strawberries can also serve as teeth whiteners and were once used as toothpaste.
Strawberry juice mixed with honey will reduce sunburn by rubbing the mixture thoroughly into the skin and rinsing off with warm water and lemon juice.
Though the fruit is fragile and delicate, strawberry plants are ubiquitous. Garden strawberries are grown in all 50 states and wild strawberries are indigenous everywhere except New Zealand, Australia and Africa.
Strawberries alone bear their seeds on the outside. This leads to two botanical oddities: Strawberries are technically not berries (which contain their seeds inside the pulp) and each seed of the strawberry is itself classified as a separate fruit.
History is filled with strawberry lore.
Pregnant women once avoided strawberries for fear their children would be born with strawberry birth marks.
In medieval times, strawberries were served at important functions to bring peace and prosperity and stone masons carved strawberry designs on church altars and pillars in churches and cathedrals to symbolize perfection and righteousness.
In provincial France, strawberries were considered an aphrodisiac and newlywed couples were traditionally served cold strawberry soup.
Bavarian farmers still practice the annual spring rite of tying small baskets of strawberries to their cattle’s horns to appease elves, who they thought would then help produce healthy calves.
Peak harvest time is rather short, lasting three to four weeks, usually starting in early June.
Tips for picking strawberries:
• Pick only ripe berries, as strawberries do not ripen further after they are picked.
• It is best to pick strawberries on a cool cloudy day.
• Do not wash the fruit until you are ready to eat. Strawberries are highly susceptible to mold and washing will speed up the spoilage.
• Freeze strawberries in a freezer bag after pinching off the green caps. They will keep up to one year.
1. How many seeds are there on the average strawberry?
2. Which country is the world’s leading producer of strawberries?
3. Strawberries are the nation’s fourth most valuable fruit crop. What are the top three?
4. Strawberries are members of which plant family?
5. How many species of strawberries have been identified?
6. How much did the largest strawberry on record weigh?
7. Which country is the world’s largest exporter of fresh strawberries?
8. Which country is the world’s largest exporter of frozen strawberries?
9. California produces about 90 percent of the nation’s strawberries. Which state is second?
10. Native Americans pounded strawberries into their traditional cornmeal bread. Colonists tried to replicate the recipe and invented what?
1. 200. 2. The United States. 3. Grapes, apples and oranges. 4. Rose. 5. More than 600. 6. 8.8 ounces. 7. Spain. 8. Poland. 9. Florida. 10. Strawberry shortcake.