What is a Strawberry?
There’s nothing quite like a juicy bite of a sweet, juicy strawberry. Whether you prefer them chopped into a salad, swirled into a smoothie or straight from the punnet, this small red fruit is one of summer’s greatest gifts. Bursting with flavor, it’s no wonder there is a long history of growing, harvesting and eating strawberries both for recreational and medicinal use.
Strawberries are a small, red fruit that grows on woody, perennial plants. The plant's flowers produce small, white, five-petaled blossoms, then depending on the variety, the ripe strawberry fruit ranges in size from that of a small pea to as large as a walnut.
Strawberry plants are native to North America, Europe, and North Africa. British farmers grew the first commercial strawberry plants in the early 1800s. Within a few years, the delicious fruit proved popular enough that the rest of Europe and North America soon adopted their own strawberry farms.
The strawberry quickly became an important economic commodity, with the fruit being sold in markets or sent by rail or boat across the continent. As the plant spread around the world, so did recipes for the sweet fruit. Today, strawberries have become a mainstay of home gardeners and commercial farms alike.
Not only are strawberries a fruity delight in their own right, they also have some pretty amazing health benefits. The fruit is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants which help fight against free radicals and reduce oxidative stress occurring in the body. This makes them incredibly beneficial to eat regularly as part of a balanced diet.
Strawberries also have high levels of dietary fiber, meaning they can aid digestion, help replace lost nutrients and introduce more beneficial bacteria into the digestive system. As the fiber content of a strawberry is low glycemic, they are a comparatively low-calorie food source, offering a great snack alternative to those watching their waistline.
The unmistakable juicy taste of strawberries makes them a popular fruit for everything from jams to cakes and is often enjoyed as part of a breakfast bowl of cereal. When it comes to preserves, an old fashioned way of making strawberry jam is to add sugar and simmer the fruit in a small amount of water and butter. You whip up this easy recipe in under 15 minutes.
Strawberries and ricotta cheese, in particular, make for an delightful and simple yet tasty dessert. Toss some sliced strawberries with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of lime juice, and serve with some fresh ricotta cheese on the side. The strawberries will contrast the creamy ricotta and cut through the sweetness of the honey, making for a beautiful sweet-savory dish.
When it comes to savory dishes, strawberries offer a unique contrast of flavor and texture when paired with fish, poultry or game. Combine diced strawberries with a handful of herbs, a splash of vinegar, a drizzle of honey and a pinch of salt and pepper, and use this to top grilled salmon, chicken breasts, or steaks.
For an interesting drink, try a strawberry basil mocktail. Simply muddle 5-6 Medium sized strawberries in a shaker with 2-3 Slices of lime and a few leaves of basil. Top with some soda or sparkling water and mix together with a few ice cubes.
This refreshing summer drink is very easy to make and it looks fabulous. It’s a great non-alcoholic alternative to the classic gin and tonic.
No matter how you slice, dice, jam or julienne them, one thing is certain – fresh strawberries make for an incredibly versatile and delicious fruit. Whether you are enjoying them plain or in a recipe, you can be sure that you are getting your daily nutrient boost. So go out and grab a punnet (or tow) of strawberries and start exploring!