Danna F. Gillett | 3/27/2012 11:43:23 PM
Within a few weeks, fresh Louisiana strawberries will be just a delicious memory. Once a spring time treat, strawberries are available in some areas of the state for up to six months. In the northeast region, March through May is the peak harvest time. Locally grown berries tend to be naturally sweet and require less shipping time than those shipped from out of state.
Fresh strawberries can be served at all meals and make an excellent snack. At only 50 calories a cup, they are low in calories and are practically fat and sodium free. In addition, strawberries are naturally high in fiber, Vitamin C, folate, potassium and antioxidants. Be sure to freeze some without sugar for later enjoyment.
The size of berries does not affect the flavor. Choose strawberries without bruising or decay and avoid those with mold which can spread quickly to other berries. Strawberries do not ripen after picking, so choose bright red berries with caps still attached.
Discard unripe or damaged berries before storing unwashed berries in the refrigerator. Washing removes the protective outer layer causing rapid deterioration. Spread in a flat container and cover loosely. Before serving, wash strawberries in a colander under cold running water. Strawberries should not be soaked to clean. Use a paring knife to remove the hull, stem and any damaged areas. Rinse the berries again if necessary and allow to air dry. They may be gently patted with a paper towel also.
Freezing strawberries is the easiest way to maintain quality and preserve the fresh flavor. To freeze without sugar, place berries in a single layer on a tray or baking pan. Cover lightly and freeze quickly until firm. Package frozen berries in bags or containers designed for freezer use. Store them in a freezer at zero degrees for 8-12 months. Strawberries should be thawed in the refrigerator or in a pan of cool water. Serve when a few ice crystals remain. Completely thawed berries tend to be mushy.