Cathy Agan | 4/12/2013 8:32:50 PM
Spring marks the peak of the Louisiana strawberry season when fresh berries are abundant and so sweet. Strawberries are a nutritious and delicious treat. They are naturally high in fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium, and antioxidants while being low in calories and nearly fat and sodium free. One cup of strawberries has 46 calories, 85 mg of vitamin C and 2.9 grams fiber. Stock up on the fresh berries now, and store them properly to enjoy after the peak season.
Since strawberries do not ripen after picking, choose firm ripe berries with a solid red color and bright green caps attached. If the container has red stains, the berries may be overripe or crushed. It is important to store strawberries correctly to maintain freshness. Spread them in a flat container, cover loosely, and refrigerate unwashed until ready to use. Washing strawberries removes their natural protective outer layer, and quality will begin to deteriorate rapidly. When ready to use, thoroughly wash berries under cold running water in a colander. Do not soak them in water.
Freezing is the best and easiest way to maintain nutritional quality and keep berries fresh for a length of time. Strawberries freeze well with or without sugar, but texture, color and flavor are better when packed in sugar. Berries can also be frozen with artificial sweetener in place of sugar. Just follow the package directions for the equivalent amount of sugar.
To freeze with sugar, sprinkle sugar over berries that have been washed, dried and sliced. Use ½ to ¾ cup sugar to 1 quart (1 1/3 pounds) of berries depending on your taste preference. Turn berries gently with a large spoon until all are coated with sugar. Let set for 5 to 10 minutes to make their own juice. Pack berries in freezer bags or containers leaving ½ inch of space at the top. If you use a rigid container, place a small piece of crumpled waxed paper or freezer paper on top to hold berries under the juice. Seal airtight, label, and freeze quickly.
If you want to make preserves or jam later, or if you want to limit your sugar intake, freeze berries without sugar. To freeze whole berries without sugar, place in a single layer on a tray or baking pan. Cover lightly and freeze quickly until firm. Remove berries from pan and package in freezer containers or bags. When ready to use, you can thaw berries in the refrigerator or in a pan of cool water. Strawberries are best served with a few ice crystals remaining since they may become mushy if thawed completely. Strawberries can be stored in the freezer at 0 degrees for 8 to 12 months.
If you would like more information on using or storing fresh strawberries, click here to download “Its Strawberry Time” publication.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture