Article: Enjoy local strawberries plain or in a variety of dishes

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Which fruit has seeds on the outside and is hollow in the middle? STRAWBERRIES! Like many Lodians, we patiently waited for the homemade “Closed/Season Over” signs in front of the local strawberry stands to display “Open”.  Since strawberry season is now in full swing, it is a great time to remember how special these fruits really are!

Shop Smart
Some of the best tasting strawberries in the world can be found growing here in the Central Valley, with stands opening after a stretch of warm weather, typically mid to late April!. Since strawberries do not continue to ripen after being picked, choose berries that are shiny and deep red in color. They are highly perishable, so it is important to avoid fruit with soft spots or any visible mold. Store unwashed strawberries in a plastic container in the refrigerator, being careful not to crowd them and use within a few days. If they are very ripe, you will need to use them (or freeze them) right away! Learn about my tips for freezing berries below. Since conventionally grown strawberries can be heavily sprayed, it is best to find those grown organically or from farmers who do not use pesticides.

Cook Smart
Strawberries should only be rinsed right before using/eating them. A gentle technique involves dipping each strawberry in a bowl of cold water and swishing it around to remove any debris or sand, then gently patting it dry. While strawberries are most often consumed raw, in fruit salads, green salads, fruit salsas, iced teas, dressings or fresh desserts or on cereal, they can be cooked into a jam, BBQ sauce or in a crisp. They can also be frozen for later use in smoothies, dressings, breads and baked desserts. To freeze, simply place a single layer of rinsed strawberries (greens removed) on a baking sheet, leaving a bit of space between each berry, and freeze for 1 to 2 hours. Then transfer the frozen berries into a gallon freezer bag for easier storage.

Eat Smart
Although strawberries are low in calories, only 50 calories per cup, these nutrient dense “gems” are amazingly high in antioxidants that help protect our cells and reduce our risk of heart disease and cancer. Recent research involving people with pre-cancerous lesions in the esophagus found that consistent intake of strawberries was associated with a reversal in the disease process for 80% of the patients, with many lesions disappearing completely. The powerful impact that these phenomenal berries have on our cells is undoubtedly the result of the interaction between all of the different nutrients they offer, including vitamins A, C, E and potent phytochemicals, especially anthocyanins, ellagic acid, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta carotene. Strawberries also provide an array of important minerals, such as potassium, manganese, fluorine, copper, iron and iodine, a little over 3 grams of fiber per cup and taste fantastic!  Strawberries can be savored “au naturel”, or combine them with other berries and let your imagination run wild… Homemade berry pancakes, anyone? The delicious recipe uses strawberries in two ways and is just perfect for enjoying on a warm evening!

Strawberry, Avocado and Greens with Ruby Dressing
The berry dressing is so colorful and brings tender greens together with fresh strawberries and creamy avocado for a delicious combination, fit for any “posh” spa menu or your kitchen table!

For the Ruby Dressing:
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, washed, stemmed
1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries, rinsed
3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon spicy Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons chia seeds
2 Medjool dates, pitted (and soaked ahead of time)
1/4 cup water (or orange juice with zest)
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

For the Salad:
4 cups young salad greens, washed
2 cups baby spinach leaves, washed
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, stemmed, sliced
2 green onions, thoroughly washed, chopped small
4 teaspoons sunflower seeds or slivered or sliced almonds, raw or lightly toasted
1/2 to 1 avocado

Procedure:
Blend the strawberries, raspberries, vinegar, mustard, chia seeds, pitted dates and 1/4 c soaking water (or just plain water if you didn’t get a chance to soak the dates ahead of time), and in a blender on high until desired consistency. Add a pinch of freshly ground pepper.

In a large bowl, toss the greens with the spinach leaves. Add in the strawberries, avocado and green onions. Drizzle with the Ruby Dressing. Toss gently. Sprinkle each plated salad with sunflower seeds or almonds.

Nutrition info: (for 1/4 of salad with dressing) – 171 kcalories, 8 g fat, 25 g carbohydrate, 8 g fiber, 4 g protein, 125 mcg vitamin A, 202 mcg vitamin K, 69 mg vitamin C, 594 mg potassium, 93 mg calcium, 74 mg sodium, 69 mg magnesium, 2 mg iron, 1 mg zinc

Recipe adapted by The Nutrition Professor from www.glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com

Timaree Hagenburger, is a registered dietitian and certified health fitness specialist with a master’s degree in public health. She is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, does corporate wellness work, as well as professional speaking engagements and teaches hands-on cooking/nutrition classes.

Read my article as published in the Lodi News Sentinel.

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