There are so many things I love about spring. But when it comes to food, there’s just nothing better than a batch of fresh picked strawberries. Not only are they super tasty and versatile, they also offer excellent health benefits. Arkansas strawberries are typically available from late April through the month of May. Last weekend I picked up my first box of the season from Holland Bottom Farm in Cabot and, oh my goodness, they were good!
Here are just a couple of things to keep in mind when it comes to buying, storing, and prepping fresh strawberries.
- Choose firm, brightly colored berries with a natural shine and with the green stem attached. These will contain the maximum sweetness and flavor.
- Strawberries do not ripen after they have been picked, so don’t purchase those that are white or pale pink.
- Be sure to avoid berries with signs of spoilage, bruises, mushiness, shriveling, or without caps.
- Arrange the berries (without washing or removing the stems) on a paper towel-lined tray and cover with plastic wrap; then refrigerate. Always remove any that are bruised or molded first though to prevent the others from molding as well.
- Strawberries can only be stored for a couple of days in the refrigerator. If they are left much longer, a grey mold may develop.
- If you know you won’t be able to eat all of your fresh strawberries before they ruin, you can always preserve them. Freezing, drying, and making jams or jellies are the best ways to preserve berries. Research on food preservation is ongoing and recommendations change, so refer to the National Center for Home Food Preservation for the latest recommendations.
- When you are ready to eat your strawberries, just place them in a colander and rinse with cold water. (Don’t allow them to sit in the cold water though or they will lose flavor and color). After rinsing, then remove the stems.
- To maintain quality, cut or sliced berries should be covered and refrigerated if they are not eaten within 2 hours of preparation.
Speaking of preparation, one of my favorite recipes during strawberry season is a Strawberry Spinach Salad. This is seriously one of those salads that you want to try as soon as you see it. It’s got the rich green color of the baby spinach mixed with the bright red berries. And the blend of flavors and textures is just as good. While this salad is traditionally made with spinach, you could also use a blend of baby spinach and mixed field greens to add more color, flavor, and nutritional variety. Give it a try and let me know what you think!