A plentiful supply of strawberries hits the market around Mother’s Day each year and along with them, we find plenty of ways to enjoy them.
Most of the berries available at this time of the year are California berries. The berries we enjoy are the products of years of cross breeding.
Wild strawberries grow on every continent except Africa and Australia/New Zealand, and they make attractive ground covers. However, wild berries are often small and tasteless and may be colors other than red. The Romans prized wild strawberries for their medicinal properties.
The strawberries we feast on today come from a cross made in France 250 years ago between fruits from North and South America. Early European explorers of the 1500s took samples from the Virginia area back to Europe where they attracted a lot of attention because the North American berries produced larger fruit, were more productive and had brighter red coloring than those common to Europe at the time.
The flavor of fresh strawberries is unbeatable and that alone puts them on the menu. It is nice to know that they are also very nutritious. Ounce for ounce, strawberries have more Vitamin C than citrus fruit. A cup of strawberries will supply more than the recommended human daily requirement of vitamin C and in addition, they add important trace minerals to the diet.
According to the American Cancer Society, foods rich in Vitamin C may lower the risk of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.
In addition, without added sugar, strawberries are low in calories. When strawberries are in plentiful supply, home cooks find many ways to use them in bulk. Plan ahead by knowing the equivalents for measuring strawberries.
When measuring strawberries
1 1/2 pounds = 2 pints or 1 quart
1 small basket = 1 pint
1 pint = 3 1/4 cups whole berries
1 pint = 2 1/4 cups sliced berries
1 pint = 1 2/3 cup pureed berries
1 cup = about 4 ounces
There is more to fresh strawberries than shortcake (although they could stop there and everyone would be happy). They lend themselves well to salads, desserts and snacking.
Fruit Fantasia is a delightful fruit salad that is both tasty and nutritious.
2 bananas, sliced
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 (20 oz) can pineapple tidbits in juice, drained and save juice
1 (15 oz) can sliced peaches in juice, drained and save juice
1 teaspoon sugar-free Tang
1 (0.9 oz ) package vanilla instant pudding
Slice 2 bananas and 2 cups of strawberries. In a large serving dish, combine bananas, strawberries, pineapple, and peaches. In another bowl, combine pineapple juice, Tang mix, and pudding mix. Mix well with a wire whisk. The mixture will be thick. Spoon pudding mixture over fruit and toss gently to coat. Thin as desired with reserved peach juice. Chill for 30 minutes before serving.
One taste of fresh strawberry pie and it is easy to understand why there is no shortage of recipes for the delightful pastry.
The sauce that binds the berries together can be a packaged mix like Danish Dessert, a homemade equivalent or a gelatin based mix. For even more real strawberry flavor, consider the following recipe that uses strawberries as the basis for the sauce.
Fresh Strawberry Pie
1 1/2 quarts fresh strawberries, hulled and washed
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Reserve half of the berries (save out the most attractive) and mash the rest. Combine sugar and cornstarch in large saucepan; add mashed berries and mix well. Cook for 5-6 minutes until clear and thick; add lemon juice and cool. Gently stir in the rest of berries; pour into 9” baked pastry shell. (Use a pastry pie crust, a shortbread crust or a graham cracker crust.) Top with whipped cream to serve.
Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup lemon juice
1 package Danish Dessert, prepared (or substitute homemade Danish dessert recipe below)
1 cup strawberries, sliced Graham cracker crust.
Combine cream cheese, milk and lemon juice; pour into crust. Place in refrigerator to set up.
Make Danish Dessert; cool and add strawberries. Spoon over pie; refrigerate until ready to serve.
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 package gelatin dessert
Combine cornstarch and sugar; add water and bring to boil.
Remove from heat; add gelatin dessert (strawberry flavored for above recipe) and stir until dissolved.
1 teaspoon vanilla
8-oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups whipped cream
1 recipe Danish Dessert (see recipe above) prepared, cooled 1 cup strawberries, sliced 1 nut crust (below)
Combine cream cheese and vanilla; fold in whipped cream.
Pour into nut crust. Combine Danish Dessert and strawberries; pour onto cream cheese mixture. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup nuts, chopped
Combine all ingredients; pat into 9” pie pan. Bake at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Honey Bee Ambrosia
3 medium oranges peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup honey
2 bananas peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pint strawberries, sliced (or any fruit in season)
1/3 cup flaked coconut (optional)
Heat in a small saucepan to blend orange juice, honey and lemon juice. Cool.
Combine oranges with bananas and strawberries. Pour liquid mixture over fruit and chill.
Sprinkle with flaked coconut as desired.