What is a strawberry?
Fresh, ripe strawberries are a classic summer treat served folded through crepes or for something a little more unusual, strawberries make a perfect chilled summer soup when blended with cinnamon, ginger, mint and yoghurt.
Wild strawberries grew in Europe as early as the 1300s and references to this fruit can be found in Roman literature and in the manuscripts of eastern European monks. Strawberries were selectively bred in the 1700s and the large, garden varieties that are familiar today come from a hybrid cross of a North American and a Chilean species. The first of these fruits were grown in France in the late 18th century.
Strawberries were grown commercially in Australia in the 1920s but crops were affected and destroyed by disease in the 1940s. Nowadays, this popular fruit is grown in most states of Australia and in many home gardens.
In Australia, strawberries are not sold by variety, although there are several different types available. Some have been cultivated in Australia, while others are from Californian stock.
The Lowanna is a large Victorian-bred strawberry with sweet red flesh. The Tallara is also from Victoria. This strawberry is heart-shaped with a white tip and has a solid red centre and very sweet flesh.
Other popular types include Selva, a large, firm strawberry with a light red skin and white flesh, Camarosa, a heart-shaped fruit with very sweet red flesh that is grown in winter, and Pojaro and Parkers strawberries.
Why strawberries good to eat
- Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C (needed for the growth and repair of tissues in the body) and contain some vitamin A (important for growth and development and the maintenance of your immune system), and K (important for helping your blood to clot).
- They also contain minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure), manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function) and magnesium (involved in the regulation of muscle, heart and nerve function and keeping bones strong) and folate.
- Strawberries contain dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy bowel.
- Energy – 100 g of strawberries supplies 90 kJ.
How are they grown and harvested?
Strawberry plants are perennials (they grow every year) and grow best in mild climates in a sunny position. They usually grow over the ground but commercial plants are grown on supports or trellises. The plant is leafy and grows to about 15 cm in height and spreads between 50 and 150 cm along the ground. Strawberry plants require plenty of water and are dormant in winter.
The main stem of the plant is called a crown, and it develops dark green leaves with jagged edges. Strawberry plants reproduce by growing runners, or long stems, with a new plant bud at the tip. The runners, which send down roots when they touch the ground, are produced from the crown and can be up to 1.5 m long. A new plant develops from these runners.
The flowers on the strawberry plant have five petals and are white or sometimes pink. Once bees pollinate the flowers they develop into red fruit that have their seeds on the outside. Strawberries are delicate and are hand-picked with the green caps still attached and with some stem left on the fruit. The fruit must be picked ripe because strawberries do not continue to ripen after being picked.
Choose ripe, firm and plump strawberries that have intact stems. The green calyx (leafy ‘crown’ on top) should also be intact. Avoid strawberries that have white or green around the stem of the fruit. Also avoid those that have mould, soft spots, bruises or other visible damage.
How to store and keep strawberries
Store strawberries in your fridge. They should be used within two or three days.
How to use
- Try a spicy strawberry salsa – mix sliced strawberries with chopped fresh mint, red chilli, sliced red onion and raspberry vinegar, then leave for 20 minutes for the flavour to develop before serving with grilled chicken or fish.
- Serve a simple entrée – combine halved strawberries with mixed salad greens, diced avocado, bean sprouts and sliced shallots, then top with cooked prawns and drizzle with a dressing of lime juice, cracked pepper and olive oil.
- Make an easy salad – toss halved strawberries with spinach leaves and walnuts, then serve with a dressing of oil, vinegar, paprika powder, sesame seeds and poppy seeds.
- Add a twist to your soup – blend strawberries with Greek yoghurt, sour cream and a drizzle of chilli sauce, then chill in the fridge and garnish with a dollop of low fat yoghurt and fresh sprigs of mint.
- Enjoy an Italian-inspired dessert – soak strawberries in a sauce of caster sugar dissolved in balsamic vinegar and water, then tumble the strawberries over fresh ricotta cheese and finish with a drizzle of the balsamic sauce.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Better Health Channel
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