Strawberries: A healthy treat for the family

The hearty strawberry plant has grown wild in many parts of the world for more than 2,200 years. In Italy they date back as far as 264 BC, and in the US, the Native Americans liked to bake the berries into their cornbread. The early European settlers also came up with a similar dessert variation that we call today strawberry shortcake.

Strawberry shortcake is just one delicious reason that 94 percent of American households say they eat strawberries. Grown in almost every state in the nation, California leads the country in strawberry production. So much so that eight out of 10 strawberries grown in the US are grown in California. In the peak of strawberry season, many farms have “u-pick” specials. Picking your own strawberries is good healthy family fun, and the rewards are delicious!
Looking beyond their sweet juicy taste, strawberries are loaded with nutrients including powerful, disease- fighting antioxidants and vitamin C. Just eight medium strawberries count as one serving, and this serving contains more vitamin C than an orange. Strawberries are also a good source of iron, folic acid, fiber and potassium. All that, and they’re low in calories and fat-free too! So pile them high on your cereal, grab a handful for a snack, and enjoy them for what they are — healthy, nutritious and oh so tasty!

Age to introduce: Over 12 months (cooked and pureed).

At the market: Select strawberries that have a bright red color, a natural shine and fresh-looking green caps. Once picked, strawberries will not continue to ripen.

Storage: Always refrigerate strawberries in a dry container covered loosely with plastic wrap. They will keep for several days. Do not wash them until just before they are served, and do not remove their green caps until after they are washed. Here are a few creative ideas to add strawberries in your meals:
Strawberry lemonade: Put one package of frozen strawberries and one can of frozen lemonade concentrate in a blender. Process until smooth. Make lemonade according to the package directions. If you have an ice cream maker, pour the lemonade in it and process for 20 minutes to make slushies.

Simple and elegant appetizer: Strawberries combine perfectly with balsamic vinegar. Simply whisk equal amounts of sugar and balsamic vinegar together, and pour this mixture over fresh whole or halved strawberries. Serve with toothpicks or as one of many dishes in an antipasto platter.

Cheese and berry platter: Strawberries are simply wonderful with soft, flavorful cheeses such as brie, camembert and goat cheese. For a terrific finish to dinner serve a plate of strawberries and cheese.

Strawberries are a great addition to a mixed green or spinach salad. They especially compliment Blue Cheese, Gorgonzola cheese, and purple onions. A sweet balsamic vinaigrette is the perfect salad dressing. Try this one: Whisk together 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/2 cup olive, oil, 2 minced garlic cloves, and 1 tablespoon sugar (salt and pepper to taste).

Salsa for breakfast?
Salsa is not just for chips. Try making this breakfast salsa and serve it over pancakes, waffles, French toast, hot cereal, or mixed into yogurt: In a bowl, whisk 1/3 cup apricot jam, 3 tablespoons water, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Toss in 1 cup of diced fresh strawberries and 1 cup of diced mango.


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