May 11, 2011 12:18:00 PM
Few things taste better than a bowl filled with fresh-grown strawberries during a Southern spring and summer. Not only are they delicious and beautiful in all their red-ripened glory, but this fruit is naturally high in fiber, Vitamin C, folate, potassium and antioxidants. But back to that taste ...
Juicy and lusciously sweet, good strawberries can be enjoyed fresh, or frozen, in desserts, cereals, yogurt or salads. You can even drink them in shakes, juices and, yes, even cocktails.
Selecting the best berries isn''t rocket science, but there are a few things to remember to get the most for your money.
Locally-grown berries are going to be sweeter and juicier than those bred for shipment. Farmers'' market shoppers in Columbus and Starkville might be lucky enough to get freshly-picked strawberries at their markets, but don''t put it off -- as temperatures rise, the strawberry season wanes. And unfortunately, even when they look good, strawberries out of season often lack that premium taste.
Shop with your nose. Look for the most fragrant berry you can find. Plump, firm, uniformly-sized, bright-red strawberries, with no white of green "shoulders" at the stem end, are what you want, say experts.
Remember that strawberries don''t ripen after harvesting (like tomatoes can), so choose fully-ripened ones and plan to eat them pretty soon.
The green leaf-cap should still be attached and not brown or wilted. Of course, avoid berries with soft spots, bruising or mildew. (Mold spreads quickly, so never leave a moldy berry next to a good one.)
Savvy shoppers will check the underside of the container before buying to make sure there are no squashed fruit or red juice, which is a sign of over-ripe berries.
Size doesn''t matter
Strawberries can be as small as a grape or as large as golf balls, but size does not determine taste. In fact, the smaller berries are often more flavorful than their big brother counterparts.
Keep in mind this fruit is delicate and doesn''t store all that well. They can be kept in the refrigerator for two to three days, says whatscookingamerica.com, preferably in a single layer on a paper towel-lined tray. Don''t wash the berries or remove the caps until just before you use them. Removing the caps before storing allows strawberries to absorb moisture and lose taste. Another short-term storage suggestion online is to keep them uncovered in a colander in the fridge, allowing cold air to circulate around the berries.
This pretty fruit tastes best at room temperature, so for maximum zing, remove them from the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to enjoy them..
Are your taste buds tingling yet? If so, make a point of heading to your farmers'' markets this Saturday on a berry quest (also on Thursdays from 6-10 a.m., and Mondays 5-7 p.m. in Columbus). Watch seasonal roadside produce stands, too. Even if you don''t come home with strawberries this time out, you''re sure to discover something remarkably fresh, locally-grown and bursting with flavor.
For the crust:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup confectioners'' (powdered or icing) sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
For the filling:
12 ounce bag frozen unsweetened raspberries
1/4 cup cold water
1 package (1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons seedless blackberry or raspberry jam
4 cups (about 2 pounds) fresh strawberries
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Softly whipped cream
For the crust:
For the filling:
(Source: "Great Pies & Tarts" by Carole Walter; joyofbaking.com)
Mini chocolate chips
Black decorators'' icing
Red lace licorice
Wedge of cheese (your choice)
1 1/2 pounds strawberries, stemmed and quartered
5 tablespoons sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
For whipped cream:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
(Source: Mary Nolan, foodnetwork.com)
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.