Elizabeth S. Reames, Claesgens, Mark A. | 3/31/2007 1:03:45 AM
Choose Louisiana strawberries for a nutritious and delicious treat, advises LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames. Strawberries contain several nutrients, minerals and non-nutritive chemicals that are important for human health.
According to the USDA Agricultural Research Service, strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese and a good source of dietary fiber.
Strawberries have been used in several types of animal and human health studies over the last 10 years, including cancer, heart disease, anti-inflammatory and aging processes. Reames says these studies show that the anthocyanins, red pigments and other phenolics (chemical compounds) present in strawberries have healthful properties.
Strawberries contain a unique phenolic group called ellagotannins, which are antioxidants that help prevent esophageal cancer. Strawberries also contain other antioxidant compounds called flavonoids, which have been shown to inhibit circulatory inflammation and blood clots. They also strengthen capillaries.
Ounce for ounce, strawberries have more vitamin C than citrus fruit. One-half cup of strawberries provides more fiber than a slice of whole-wheat bread. One cup of strawberries provides 45 calories, 84 mg vitamin C and 3.8 grams fiber.
Louisiana strawberries are usually available from early March through the middle of May. Most Louisiana berries are grown in Livingston and Tangipahoa parishes. Strawberries are grown commercially in several other parishes.
When shopping, look for berries with a full red color, bright luster and firm, plump flesh. Choose fully ripe berries. Strawberries do not ripen after being picked. The caps should be bright green, fresh looking and fully attached. Avoid berries with large uncolored or seedy areas or those with mold.
Take berries home immediately after purchase and use as soon as possible. Remove berries from their market or store container. Leaving their caps on, sort and spread gently in a flat container. Store in the refrigerator immediately.
Just before serving, wash them in gently flowing cold water in a colander. Drain and remove caps.
As a rule of thumb, 1 quart of strawberries equals approximately 3 3/4 cups hulled, whole berries or 2 1/4 cups sliced berries. When purchasing strawberries by the pound, 1 1/2 pounds equals about 4 cups of sliced strawberries.
Strawberries freeze well with or without sugar. Texture, color and flavor are better when sugar is used. When freezing with sugar, sprinkle sugar over washed whole or sliced berries. Use one-half to three-fourths cup of sugar to 4 or 5 cups sliced berries. Turn berries gently with a spoon until all are coated with sugar. Let berries sit 5-10 minutes to make their own juice. Add 1 teaspoon of commercial ascorbic acid mixture to the sugar to help protect the color and vitamin C.
Pack berries in moisture-vapor-proof bags or containers. Fill containers leaving one-half inch of space at top. Place a small piece of crumpled waxed paper or freezer paper on top of berries in rigid containers to hold berries under the juice. Seal and label. Freeze quickly at zero degrees F.
To freeze whole berries without sugar, place in single layer on a tray or cookie sheet, cover lightly and freeze quickly until they are firm. Remove from pan, and package airtight in moisture-vapor-proof containers or bags. If they are to be used for preserves or jam, measure and bag before freezing.
For related family and consumer topics, click on the Food and Health link on the LSU AgCenter homepage at www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.