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Strawberries make perfect snack

Published: Thursday, June 12, 2014 10:52 a.m. CDT

It’s strawberry season!

June signals the traditional start of strawberry season in Iowa.  Whether your strawberries are from your own garden, your local Farmers’ Market, or the grocery store, the summer months produce the freshest and best-tasting strawberries.

If you didn’t already love strawberries for their sweet, juicy flavor you would start eating them for their health benefits.

These potent little packages lower your blood pressure, protect your heart, and guard against cancer.  Strawberries have higher levels of Vitamin C, fiber, folate, and potassium than most other fruits including bananas, apples, and even oranges. Strawberries are sodium-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free, and low in calories ­­— perfect for summer snacking.

Choose medium-sized berries that are firm, plump, and deep red; once picked, they don’t ripen further. Medium size berries are sweeter than large berries.  Fragrant berries are also sweeter.   

To store strawberries, put unwashed berries, in a colander (or shallow dish), so that air can circulate around them, in the refrigerator. Berries will last 3 – 5 days. Do not wash berries until you are ready to eat them.

To wash them, place berries in a colander and rinse under cold water. Remove the green cap after washing them. If you have purchased (or handpicked) more fruit than you can eat, strawberries can also be frozen.   

To freeze fresh berries, place berries in a colander and rinse them in cool water to remove any dirt. Remove the green caps.

Form a single layer of strawberries on a baking pan and move them into the freezer. Allow them to sit uncovered for three to four hours, or until thoroughly frozen.

Remove the strawberries from the freezer and place them in large re-sealable freezer bags. Leave a small gap in the seal of the bag and press all excess air out of bag, then finish sealing. This will prolong the life of the frozen strawberries.

Most strawberries retain their quality for 8 to 12 months in the freezer.

When summer-fresh strawberries appear, strawberry shortcake and strawberry ice cream are usually close behind. This strawberry season, include some healthy ways to enjoy summer’s favorite fruit.

Here are five healthy ways to take advantage of strawberry season.

• Add strawberries to a greens salad.  Strawberries go especially well with dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, and nuts like pecans and walnuts.

• Make a smoothie. Blend berries (fresh or frozen) with vanilla yogurt and fresh juice.

• Combine strawberries with other fresh fruits for a refreshing summer fruit salad. Toss lightly with reduced fat poppy seed dressing. 

• Top your favorite waffles with smashed up strawberries instead of syrup.

• Make frozen pops. Mix the berries with vanilla yogurt. Pour into a Dixie cup, insert a Popsicle stick, and freeze.

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