Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Red, ripe, and luscious! We enjoy eating these juicy wonders and anxiously await the arrival of berry season. You can buy them at the grocer's or you may enjoy growing and picking your own. Nutritionally, they are worth the money spent.

Strawberries are not only good to eat, they are also good for us.  They are an especially tasty source of vitamin C. In fact, one serving (one-half cup) of fresh strawberries provide about three-fourths of the vitamin C recommended for the average adult.  Strawberries are also low in calories—one cup of unsweetened berries has only 55 calories!

Take good care of the berries you purchase when you get them home, sorting but not washing them until just before use. Washing and capping berries before refrigeration causes a loss of food value and increases the chance of spoilage.  Use within a day of purchasing if you can.

Store berries uncovered in the original container or a shallow container in the refrigerator. When you are ready to use the berries, wash them quickly in cold water (do not let them soak), lifting the berries gently from the wash water and drain well before hulling.

How To Buy Strawberries

Strawberries come in many sizes. Some consumers prefer large berries even though some of the smaller varieties may be tastier. Dry, firm, fully ripe berries are best. Caps should be green and fresh looking. A stained box may indicate some of the berries in it are overripe.

How To Pick Strawberries

Strawberries look better and keep longer when they are picked and handled correctly. Because they are a very tender fruit, they will bruise and discolor any time they are squeezed. Handle them gently at all times, whether picking, placing in the container, or handling the filled containers.

Strawberry varieties differ considerably in ease of picking. Sure crop berries, for example, when mature usually snap off readily with a portion of the stem attached. Sparkle, on the other hand, will always bruise unless you pinch the stem off. The surest way to pick fruit with a minimum of bruising is as follows:
Grasp the stem between the thumb and forefinger just behind the cap. Squeeze slightly against the cap and apply slight pressure against the berry with the second finger. The berry should pull loose, leaving the cap on the stem or
grasp the stem just above the berry between the forefinger and the thumbnail and pull with a slight twisting motion. With the stem broken about one-half inch from the berry, allow it to roll into the palm of your hand.

Repeat these operations using both hands until each holds 3 or 4 fruits. Carefully place—don't throw—the berries into your container. Don't overfill your containers or try to pack the berries down.

Cherokee Strawberry Story

Since I'm part Cherokee I had to make this story a part of my chapter on strawberries.  

In the beginning of the world, ga lv la di e hi created First Man and First Woman. Together they built a lodge at the edge of a dense forest. They were very happy together; but like all humans do at times, they began to argue.

Finally First Woman became so angry she said she was leaving and never coming back. At that moment First Man really didn't care. First Woman started walking westward down the path through the forest. She never looked back.

As the day grew later, First Man began to worry. At last he started down the same path in search of his wife. The Sun looked down on First Man and took pity on him. The Sun asked First Man if he was still angry with First Woman. First Man said he was not angry any more. The Sun asked if he would like to have First Woman back. First Man readily agreed he did.

The Sun found First Woman still walking down the path toward the West. So to entice her to stop, the Sun caused to grow beneath her feet lovely blueberries. The blueberries were large and ripe. First Woman paid no attention but kept walking down the path toward the West.

Further down the path the Sun caused to grow some luscious blackberries. The berries were very black and plump. First Woman looked neither left nor right but kept walking down the path toward the West.
At last the Sun caused to grow a plant that had never grown on the earth before. The plant covered the ground in front of First Woman. Suddenly she became aware of a fragrance she had never known. Stopping she looked down at her feet. Growing in the path was a plant with shiny green leaves, lovely white flowers with the largest most luscious red berries she had ever seen. First Woman stopped to pick one. Hmmm…she had never tasted anything quite like it! It was so sweet.

As First Woman ate the berry, the anger she felt began to fade away. She thought again of her husband and how they had parted in anger. She missed him and wanted to return home.

First Woman began to gather some of the berries. When she had all she could carry, she turned toward the East and started back down the path. Soon she met First Man. Together they shared the berries, and then hand in hand, they walked back to their lodge.

The Cherokee word for strawberry is ani. The rich bottomlands of the old Cherokee country were noted for their abundance of strawberries and other wild fruits. Even today, strawberries are often kept in Cherokee homes. They remind us not to argue and are a symbol of good luck.

Sweet story isn't it?  

My Story

When I was a small girl and we lived on Grove Street, I would often go on walks to the river with our white German Shepard dog to an acreage at the top of our hill that was still wild land that produced tall wild grasses and wild strawberries.  I would go to where I knew the wild strawberry patch was and lay in the grass with Lobo and eat the berries. Very nice childhood memory. 

Wild Strawberries

Wild strawberries grow where there’s lots of sun: in meadows, fields, on moist ground, along the edge of woods, and on hillsides. You can find them across the U.S.  There are no poisonous plants that resemble strawberries, but there's a related edible plant called the wood strawberry with yellow flowers, and a similar fruit surrounded by hairy sepals (modified leaves), that has no flavor.


Native forms of strawberries adapt to various climates and are indigenous to every major continent except Africa, Australia and New Zealand.   Strawberries originated in Chile and in the 17th century they were introduced in Europe after a Frenchman brought over some plants. 

The Romans prized wild strawberries for their medicinal properties.


Ounce for ounce, strawberries have more Vitamin C than citrus fruit. According to the American Cancer Society, foods rich in Vitamin C may lower the risk of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.

Serving Size: 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries (166 grams), calories 50,  protein 1 gram,  carbohydrates 11.65 grams, and dietary fiber 3.81 grams.


There are basically 3 types of strawberry plants to choose from: June bearing, Everbearing and Day Neutral.

June Bearing strawberries produce a single, large crop per year during a 2 - 3 week period in the spring. June bearers are the traditionally grown plants, producing a single flush of flowers and many runners. They are classified into early, mid-season and late varieties. The largest fruits are generally from June bearing varieties.

Everbearing strawberries produce two to three harvests of fruit intermittently during the spring, summer and fall. Everbearing plants do not send out many runners.

Day Neutral strawberries will produce fruit throughout the growing season. These strawberries also produce few runners. Everbearing and day neutral strawberries are great when space is limited, but the fruits are usually somewhat smaller than June bearers.

Planting Strawberries

Basic considerations when locating a strawberry patch include full sun, well drained and sandy and don’t plant where tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplant have been grown recently (Verticillium Rot).

What ever planting method you choose, the following rules apply:  plant in the spring as soon as the soil is dry enough to be worked, or in late fall, be sure you have certified disease-free plants,  select plants with large crowns with healthy, light-colored roots, amend soil with 1-2 inches of organic matter like compost or well- rotted manure, keep weeds from competing with your strawberry plants and make a hole large enough to spread the roots. Hill the center of the hole and place the crown at soil level. Spread the roots downward on the hill. Bury the plant so that the soil only goes halfway up the crown.

Matted Row System for June Bearing Strawberries

The matted row system works well with strawberry plants that send out a lot of runners. Set plants 18 inches apart in rows of 24 inches, with 4 - 4 1/2 feet between rows.  Leaves and flower buds will emerge shortly after planting. Pinch off all flowers during the first year in the garden, on June bearing varieties, and all flowers that form until July 1st on ever-bearing and day neutral varieties. This will encourage both plant vigor and production of runners to fill in the mat. Pinching off this years flowers means no crop this year but a much better crop next year and several more years of production. As runners form from the plant crowns, train along the row and space 6 to 9 inches apart. Press the runner gently into the soil, hold in place with a rock or cover with about 1/2 inch of soil until roots form. Do not sever the runner from the mother plant.

Hill System for Day Neutral and Everbearing Strawberries

Day neutral and everbearing strawberry plants don't send out many runners and instead focus their energy on producing multiple harvests. The hill system is basically a raised bed 8 inches high and 2 feet wide. Plants are set out in staggered double rows, about 12 inches apart. All runners should be removed as well as all flowers until July 1st of the first year. Plants may then be allowed to produce fruit. Multiple harvests are exhausting on plants and both day neutral and everbearing varieties should be replaced about every 3 years or whenever they seem to slow in vigor.

I have even grown them in pots for decoration.  I think they make a nice ornamental plant and you can pick your berries off while enjoying their decoration.  


Strawberry Shortcake

You can’t think strawberries without thinking shortcake.  What I love about shortcake is that it can be tailored to whatever fruit is in season. Here's a recipe for the classic strawberry shortcake.  This shortcake is more like a pie dough.  Below there is one that is sweeter.  Take your pick.


4 cups flour
1 ½ lbs very cold unsalted butter cut into small bits
½ cup ice-cold water
½ tsp. salt

Combine ingredients in a bowl with a pastry cutter until well blended. Be careful not to over mix. Divide mixture into 24 balls and place on wax paper. Pat balls into disks by hand. Do not roll with a rolling pin because the mixture is too fragile. Spray the baking sheet with a little bit of food release and bake it in a low oven, about 300 degrees for 20 minutes until it's nice and golden brown.


3 one pint baskets of strawberries
½ cup of sugar or to taste

Fresh Whipped Cream

1 pint whipping cream
Sugar - up to one tablespoon or to taste
¼ tbsp. vanilla

Wash the strawberries, removing the green stem top if necessary. Chop strawberries and add sugar. Allow the mixture to sit unrefrigerated for about 1 hour or until strawberries become juicy.

Beat 1 pint cold whipping cream, 1 tablespoon sugar, and ¼ teaspoon vanilla until soft peaks form. Serve strawberries over shortcake with a dollop of whipped cream.

Recipe makes 24 thin disks, use two disks per dessert. Serves 12.

Strawberry Jello Cake

Yellow cake mix
Strawberry Jello mix
Whipped topping
Fresh Strawberries

Prepare the cake mix as directed, bake and let cool.  Prepare Jello as directed and let cool until just beginning to jell.  Make sure it is not too thick.  With a wooden spoon poke holes all over the cake and pour the Jello mixture into the holes and over the cake.  Put in the refrigerator to cool.  Once set, top with sliced strawberries and pile the whipped cream on top.  Serve cold to guests.  

This is a great summer dessert and always goes over if you take it to a pot luck.

Second Shortcake Recipe

Depending on how you like your shortcake, this shortcake is sweet:

1 1/2 pounds strawberries, stemmed and quartered
5 tbsp. sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 tbsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Mix strawberries with 3 tablespoons sugar and refrigerate while juices develop, at least 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Add heavy cream and mix until just combined. Place mixture in an ungreased 8-inch square pan and bake until golden, 18 to 20 minutes. 
Remove shortcake from pan and place on a rack to cool slightly. Cut into 6 pieces and split each piece in half horizontally.  Spoon some of the strawberries with their juice onto each shortcake bottom. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and then the shortcake top. Spoon more strawberries over the top and serve.

Whipped Cream
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
3 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp.  vanilla extract
1 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest (optional)

Using a mixer, beat the heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest until soft peaks form, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
Or I'll admit you can be lazy like me and buy the whipped topping in the freezer department of the grocery store.  It is OK to take short cuts.    
Strawberry Crunch


1 cup plain flour
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup finely chopped pecans
½ cup melted butter

Strawberry Filing

2 large egg whites
1 cup white sugar
2 cups sliced strawberries (fresh or partially thawed)
1 carton whipping cream 8 oz.
2 tsp. lemon juice

Mix crunch ingredients. Spread this mixture in a 9" x 13" pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, stir occasionally to break the pieces into crumbs. After cooking set aside 1/3 of the crunch to use as topping.

Combine egg whites, white sugar, berries and lemon juice in a large mixing bowl. You want to use as large a bowl as you have available because the mixture expands as you beat it. Beat at a high speed for 10 to 15 minutes.

In a separate smaller bowl, whip the cream. Fold whipped cream into berry mixture.  After the crunch has cooled, evenly distribute 2/3 of it across the bottom of the pan. Cover crunch with berry mixture. Sprinkle the top with remaining 1/3 of crunch.
Freeze until solid.

Strawberry Pizza

2 cups of flour
1 cup of butter
½ cup of powdered sugar.

Blend all of crust ingredients together and press the dough into the bottom of the 9 inch pie pan until it's evenly distributed. Do not grease the pan. Bake at 375 until golden brown.

16 ounces of cream cheese
1 cup of sugar

Blend together. Once the piecrust cools you spread cheese mixture on them.

2 ½ cups of strawberries (You can mix your berries if you like)
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp.  cornstarch

Mix in pan and bring to a simmer. When the mixture is thickened remove it from the heat and let it cool.  Spread this over the cream cheese filling. You may also use fresh sliced berries and fruit on the top of the berry mixture and cream cheese.  Chill it and it will be ready in about an hour.  Makes 2 pizzas.

Strawberry Jam

2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled
4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

In a wide bowl, crush strawberries in batches until you have 4 cups of mashed berry. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, mix together the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high, and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 220 degrees F .  Transfer to hot sterile jars, leaving 1/4 to 1/2 inch headspace, and seal. Process any unsealed jars in a water bath. If the jam is going to be eaten right away, don't bother with processing, and just refrigerate.

Testing:  Place three plates in a freezer (allows you to test 3 times)... after about 10 minutes of boiling, place a teaspoon of the liquid of the jam onto the cold plate. Return to freezer for a minute. Run your finger through the jam on the plate... if it doesn't try to run back together (if you can make a line through it with your finger) it's ready to be canned! Yields 5 cups.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Here is another recipe that always comes to mind when you think of strawberries.

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped 
1 pound large strawberries, washed and dried well
1/3 cup finely chopped pistachios (optional)

Place chocolate in a bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water. Stir occasionally, until melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.  Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. One at a time, dip each strawberry in chocolate, twirling to coat; then sprinkle chocolate-covered portion with pistachios, if using, and place on waxed paper.

Chill chocolate-dipped strawberries at least 15 minutes to set chocolate. (Strawberries should not be stored in refrigerator longer than 1 hour as condensation drops may collect on the chocolate.)  Yield: 20 servings

Variation:  You may use any melted milk chocolate you like.

Chocolate Covered Stuffed Strawberries

8 oz. whipped creamed cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbs strawberry jelly
1 Pound of fresh strawberries, washed and dried well 
12 oz. simi-sweet chocolate chips

Clean strawberries and let dry well.  Slice strawberries into quarters (keeping the stem on to hold)  but be careful not to cut all the way through he berry.  You will want to open it up just enough to stuff them.  Mix the creamed cheese, powdered sugar, strawberry jelly and vanilla well with hand mixer.  Pour into a small baggy and seal.  Cut a small hole in the corner of your baggie so you can pipe the cheese mixture into the strawberries.  Pipe the cream cheese mixture into the middle of the berry and pinch the berry back into shape carefully.  Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave (30 seconds and stir and then another 30 seconds).  Put the  melted chocolate in a cup for dipping.  While the chocolate is still creamy, dip your stuffed strawberries into the chocolate and then roll in chopped pecans.  This is great as a Christmas gift or for buffet pot luck.  I never bring any home as left overs because this is worthy of the gods.  Leave out the nuts if you are not a nut lover.

Strawberry Bread  

1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups strawberries, fresh & coarsely chopped (do not use frozen) 
3/4 cup walnuts(optional)

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and set aside.

In small bowl, beat butter until creamy. Gradually add sugar and beat until light and airy. Add brown sugar. Beat in eggs.  Beat in sour cream and vanilla.  Sour cream makes it really moist.  Stir into flour mixture only until dry ingredients are moistened.  Never over beat bread.  Fold in strawberries and nuts. Pour into a greased 8 x 4 inch loaf pan.

Bake at 350°F for 60 to 65 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Let stand 10 minutes in pan and turn out on rack to cool.  I always put into a baggie as soon as I can to keep it really moist.  

Strawberry Salad

1 lb spinach with no stems
1 pint strawberries, sliced set a few aside 
1/2 cup pecans
1/3 cup raspberry red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar 
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Combine dressing ingredients and shake well.  Toss and garnish with a few sliced strawberries.  Serve immediately.

Strawberry Muffins
1 2/3 cups fresh strawberries
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Heat oven to 425 F.  Put a paper baking cup in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups, or grease just the bottoms of 12 muffin cups.
Slightly smash strawberries in large bowl, using fork (you may use frozen but make sure they are thawed and drained well).  Stir in sugar, oil and eggs until mixed. Stir in other ingredients just until moistened. 
Spoon batter into muffin cups.  Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown or toothpick poked in center comes out clean.
Cool 5 minutes Loosen sides of muffins from pan if needed, and take them out of the pan.  Makes 12 muffins. 
If you do not have fresh strawberries, you can use frozen strawberries that you have thawed and drained well.

Frozen Strawberry Drink
1 cup frozen strawberries
2 cups water (tap water or mineral water)
4-5 teaspoons sugar
Pour frozen strawberries into a blender and add water. Blend until smooth. If you don't like the texture, add water until good. (I like the texture very thick.) Add sugar to your liking.
It tastes best when fresh and still cold, but you can also leave it and drink at room temperature.

Strawberry Banana Apple Juice

1 cup frozen strawberries
1 banana
1 cup apple juice
Put all ingredients into blender. Blend until smooth. Add sugar to your liking.  To make a smoothie you can add some ice cubes in the blender.

Strawberry Mousse
1 cup strawberries
1 cup whipped cream cheese
1 lemon
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
5 leaves gelatin
Squeeze the lemon and keep lemon juice. Separate egg white from the yolk.  Soak the leaf gelatin at least 5 minutes in cold water. Squeeze out excess water and place in saucepan.
Place two thirds of the strawberries in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add cream cheese, lemon juice and sugar and process for 15 more seconds.
 Melt the gelatin slowly over gentle heat. Once it has melted, add the gelatin carefully to the strawberry mixture. Put in fridge and wait until the mousse starts to thicken.  Beat white of egg and gently mix into strawberry mousse. Put the mousse 2-3 hours into fridge.
Then spoon the strawberry mousse into dessert dishes. Top each dessert with 2 whole strawberries.  Serves: 4

Strawberry Crêpe
Powdered sugar
1 cup orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. orange zest
1/2 cup butter
2 cups strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup sliced orange (you can use Mandarin canned oranges also)

1 cup flour
1/2teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2 cups milk
1/3 cup butter
Blend flour, salt, eggs, milk and melted butter in a blender until smooth. Rest batter for 30 minutes. Then fry crepes in a buttered crepe pan. Keep warm in the oven.
Meanwhile prepare the filling. Caramelize the powdered sugar in a pot until light brown. Pour in the orange juice, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon and orange zest and keep simmering about 10 minutes.  Melt in a small piece of cold butter.  Put in quartered strawberries and the orange slices to warm up.
Take the crepes from the oven and serve them with the filling on warm plates.  You can top with whipped cream.

Strawberry Cheesecake
2 cups finely crushed graham cracker crumbs 
1/2 cup butter
5 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (I love the new whipped cream cheese)
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
5 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind (Optional)
Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter.  Stir until well combined.  Press onto bottom and about 2-1/2 inches up the sides of a 9x3-inch spring form pan.  I've been known to buy a graham cracker pie crust and make it into a pie rather than the traditional cheese cake shape.  Easier and time saver.
Mix cream cheese, sugar, flour, and vanilla.  Beat with an electric mixer until fluffy.  Add eggs and egg yolks, beating on low speed just until combined.  Stir in whipping cream and lemon peel (optional).
Pour into pan. Place pan in a shallow baking pan water bath.  Bake in a 325 degree F oven about 1-1/2 hours or until center appears nearly set when shaken.
Cool 15 minutes. Loosen crust from sides of pan.  Cool 30 minutes more; remove sides of pan.  Cool completely.  Chill 4 to 24 hours.
Garnish with fresh strawberries or canned strawberry pie filling (or any canned pie filling of your choice).

Strawberry Cream Dessert

My brother Dion used to bring a dessert to get togethers that was super simple and tasted great.  I've made it even simpler using a store bought graham cracker pie crust.  Since he never shared the recipe, I have come up with something that sure tastes like his by combining one jar of marshmallow cream, one whipped creamed cheese tub at room temperature, and one tub of store bought room temperature whipped cream. Fold it together until smooth.  Fill your pie crust with the mixture.  Take a can of strawberry pie filling or any pie filling (they used blue berries and cherries also) and pour on top of the creamed mixture.  Chill until cold and serve.  Super simple creamed cheese strawberry pie.

Strawberry Rhubarb Recipes

See my rhubarb chapter of this book for earlier recipes of strawberry rhubarb pie with streusel topping and strawberry rhubarb jam.

Tomorrow picking raspberries before the birds do.  The squirrels and birds and I all have competed for my raspberries for years and I get the short end of the stick.  That is what I get for feeding them and the rabbits.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.

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