Preserving the Season: Spring
Spring traditionally brings the weather necessary for warm season fruits and vegetables to flower and produce. Here in Southern California, we are indeed fortunate to be able to grow a tremendous variety of food for the table and for preserving!
A most popular crop in the market today is strawberries:
The strawberry (Frageria x.ananassa Duch.), a member of the rose familily, is not really a berry, but an achene or ‘false’ fruit. A strawberry consists of many tiny individual fruits embedded in a fleshy scarlet receptacle. The brownish or whitish specks, commonly considered seeds, are the true fruits, known as achenes. Each achene surrounds a tiny seed. These berry components make strawberries relatively high in fiber.
Nutrition – Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, a good source of folate and potassium and are relatively low in calories.
Selecting Strawberries at the Grocery Store – Select strawberries that have a bright, glossy appearance and maximum red color development. Avoid fruit with signs of spoilage, shriveling, mushiness, or a dull color.
Selecting Strawberries from Your Home Garden or Pic-Your-Own Site – Strawberries do not ripen after thay are harvested, so it is important to pick the fruit at the right stage of maturity. Pick when the berry surgace is fully red, without green or white areas. This fruit will contain the maximum sweetness and flavor. Strawberries that are deep red and dull in appearance are overripe and may be very soft.
Harvest strawberries by gently snapping the pedicel (stem) from the plant. Take care to avoid bruising the berries. Cool the freshly picked berries as soon as possible after harvesting, and store the fruit in the refrigerator until used.
Storing – The optimum storage temperature for strawberries in the home is 32° to 36°F. Store the fruit in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator keeping them in their plastic container or put in a partially opened plastic bag to maintain high humidity. Strawberries can only be stored for up to 7 days under optimum conditions - depending on how ripe the fruit was when purchased or picked.
Washing – Do not wash berries until just before eating or preserving. Washing will add moisture and cause the berries to spoil more rapidly.
SAFETY TIPS FOR HANDLING FRESH STRAWBERRIES
- Wash your hands with soap and water before and after preparing produce. Wash cutting tools and cutting surfaces before and after to prevent bacterial contamination.
- Just before eating or preserving, rinse strawberries thoroughly under cool running water gently rubbing each berry, drain in a clean strainer, pat dry with a clean paper towel. Washing in a sink of water is not recommended since it may promote the spread of potential bacterial contamination.
From the Helpline
Ever wonder what questions other Food Preservers ask? Here are answers to commonly asked questions....