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A Most Versatile Berry

By Mark Mulcahy

This amazing fruit has been around for centuries. The name is believed to have come from several places. One idea is that the name represents the plant’s runners, which were said to have been “strawed” or strewn over the ground in ancient times. Another is based on the legend – it is believed that school children put just-picked berries onto glass straws and sold them as a ‘straw of berries.’ Just think, if they had put them into a basket or a cup, they might have had a completely different name today.

Regardless – whatever you call them, most of us just call them good!

So, where do these remarkable berries grow? Strawberries are grown in every state in the United States and every province of Canada. In the US, they grow in many regions throughout the country, from Florida to Ohio – but production is limited due to the short growing seasons, which can range from a couple of weeks to 5 months. The majority of the supply comes from California, which accounts for an amazing 75 percent of the nation’s strawberry crops. This is due to California’s nearly 12-month growing season. The Golden State produces over one billion pounds of strawberries each year – now that’s a lot of berries! California’s blessed with a temperate climate and ideal soil conditions for strawberry growing. Can you imagine a growing region spreading over 500 miles? That’s exactly how large of an area California has dedicated to strawberry production: from the southern coast of San Diego to as far north as Monterey. The season starts in early January in the areas furthest south, with a peak of supply in April, and works its way up north. The Monterey area starts about April with a peak in May or June but continues through November.
Image of Organic Strawberries
So here we are – it’s June, and strawberries are in full swing. So how do you make sure they are good? First, buy Melissa’s organic berries. Look for bright red berries with fresh green caps or “calyx” on top. Then make sure there are no signs of mold growth. If one berry is molded, mold spores can travel throughout the entire package, and you won’t be happy when you get them home. Strawberries are best eaten as soon after purchasing as possible. But, if you need to store them, keep your unwashed berries loosely covered with plastic wrap in the coldest part of your refrigerator for two to three days at most. They should not be left at room temperature for more than a few hours, as they will break down quicker. Furthermore, do not wash berries until ready to use.

When you’re ready to eat them, place your berries in a colander and rinse under cold running water, but don’t let them linger in the water too long, as they will lose color and flavor. Once washed, remove the calyx with a paring knife without removing any of the fruit. Why wait to take off the top, you may ask?  The answer is simple. When you remove the caps, you tear cells in the berries, activating ascorbic acid oxidase, an enzyme that destroys Vitamin C – and you won’t want to lose any of this vital nutrient. Strawberries have a lot! Eight medium-sized strawberries contain 96mg of vitamin C, which is more than enough to supply the Recommended Daily Allowance for men (90mg) and women (75mg) to maintain good immune function.

Lastly, if you believe in folklore, here’s a tidbit for you. Legend has it that if you break a double strawberry in half and share it with someone you care for, you will fall in love with each other.

So, the next time you are sitting at the breakfast table with these flavorful red jewels or dipping them into chocolate, stop and think for a moment – imagine how it might feel to take a tasty journey up the California coast. Heck, you may even fall in love!
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