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May, 2010

Strawberries make everything a little sweeter

By Mark Mulcahy

There is something about May strawberries. They taste sweeter and can be found just about everywhere. Perhaps that is why they made May National Strawberry month.

Strawberries
And boy, do we like them, according to the California Strawberry Commission:
  • 97 percent of American households purchase strawberries.
  • Strawberries are second only to bananas in increased consumption, which reflects a gain of over one in five households eating them more often.
Why do we like them? It could be because they are so good for us.

Strawberries provide a great source of vitamin C, quercetin, and ellagic acid, all which have been scientifically proven beneficial in strengthening our immune systems. Vitamin C has been shown to shorten the duration of colds and is beneficial in fighting upper respiratory infections.

Eating just eight medium-size strawberries provides 96 mg of vitamin C, which is more than enough to supply the daily RDA for men (90 mg) and women (75 mg) to maintain good immune function. Quercetin has antiviral properties that help fight against several types of viruses as well. So stock up and let the kids eat as much as they want! They are versatile too! We love them on cereal or pancakes in the morning, in smoothies in the afternoon, washed and eaten fresh right from the container, and even as the perfect addition to any dessert.

How about a side dish to perk up your next picnic? Do you like coleslaw? Have you ever thought about adding Melissa’s organic strawberries to coleslaw? Don’t be so quick to judge. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, especially when they are combined with kiwis.

Strawberry-Kiwi Slaw with Poppy Seed Dressing
(adapted from a recipe I found at http://www.cdkitchen.com)
Serves: 4, Ready in: 1-2 hrs.

Dressing
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 pinch ground mace
1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds
1-tablespoon plain fat-free yogurt

Salad
1 cup Melissa’s Organic Strawberries, washed, stems removed and chopped
1 ripe Melissa’s Organic Kiwifruit, peeled and sliced into thin strips
1 cup Melissa’s Organic Green Cabbage, very finely shredded
1 cup Melissa’s Organic Red Cabbage, very finely shredded
1/2 cup fresh Melissa’s Cilantro or fresh mint, washed and chopped (optional)
Parsley, for garnish

In a food processor or blender, purée all the dressing ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Spoon the dressing into a small bowl. Chill for at least one hour before serving. In a large salad bowl, combine the salad ingredients. Pour on the dressing and toss the salad. Garnish with parsley and serve. Fully prepared, this dish can be made one day in advance. Making this the day before makes your picnic day a little less hectic and allows the flavors to blend for a delicious summer salad. But don’t stop with slaw.

How about this delicious Arugula and Strawberry salad I found at http://www.cdkitchen.com)

Arugula & Strawberry Salad
4 servings, prep time 25 minutes

Ingredients
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
4 cups Baby Arugula, or torn arugula leaves
2 cups sliced Melissa’s Organic Strawberries, (about 10 ounces)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved and crumbled into small pieces (1/2 cup)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar, (see ingredient note)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Toast walnuts in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and aromatic, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a salad bowl; let cool for 5 minutes. Add arugula, strawberries, Parmesan, pepper and salt. Sprinkle vinegar and oil over the salad; toss gently and serve at once.

Hmm, mmm, now there’s a salad you’ll remember. Do you know your berries? Commercial strawberry production is highest in California, Florida and Oregon, with California leading the way. Though the most common variety is a hybrid of the wild Virginia strawberry (native to North America) and a Chilean variety, there are hundreds of varieties produced all over the United States.

Did you ever wonder what type of strawberry you are eating? Here is a list of some of the strawberries that you’ll find when shopping this summer. See if you can guess the variety by these descriptions.

Seascape - is a superior strawberry that is large, sweet and hardy with superb flavor.
Chandler - Chandlers are very popular locally because of their brilliant fruit color, and excellent flavor. Berries range from medium to large and have a medium firmness.
Albion - consistently sweet and conical in shape. This berry is darker, both internally and externally, than most other berries.
Aromas - firm fruit with great flavor, a good red color, and a bright sheen. Aromas are currently grown on nearly 2 percent of the statewide acreage and are mainly produced in the Watsonville/Salinas district.
Camarosa - bright, firm and flavorful fruit with a good sheen. Camarosa accounts for nearly one-third of the state's acreage.
Diamante - grown primarily in the Watsonville, Salinas and Santa Maria areas, this large, flavorful and firm berry has a bright red sheen and a long shelf life, accounts for more than 23 percent of the state's acreage. These are just a few of the berries you may find.

Varieties can change from region to region and week to week so you may end up finding several favorites. One thing that doesn’t change is the consistent quality you find every time you buy berries from Melissa’s.

Catch me on the radio If you would like to learn more about being green or ways to further the organic conversation, tune into Green960.com or http://www.cdkitchen.com) on Saturday mornings. Helge Hellberg and I have a radio show called An Organic Conversation @ 10am PST every Saturday. If you can’t catch us live, after it airs, the episode will be uploaded to http://www.cdkitchen.com) and iTunes as a podcast so you can listen at your convenience. An Organic Conversation is part of The Green Morning, which runs from 9am to 12:30pm every Saturday at http://www.cdkitchen.com)