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I just LOVE strawberry season–how can you not love the luscious, sweet, juicy bright red fruit that is bursting with flavor and possibilities. I especially love berries that are freshly picked or that you pick yourself, even better. So in homage to this red beauty, and being the foodie that I am, I thought I would offer some fun facts, interesting tips and tricks, and some recipe suggestions too.

Did you know there are lots of different types of strawberries?
There are hundreds of different varieties of strawberries available, but because I am a Californina girl and because California is the nation’s leading producer of strawberries, harvesting almost two billion pounds of strawberries annually and making up almost ninety percent of the country’s total fresh and frozen strawberry production, I will briefly highlight the differences between the most common CA varieties:

Albion has a darker fruit color, both internally and externally, and a consistently sweeter flavor than most strawberries. These are my absolute favorite berry because it has an intense, sugary, real strawberry flavor. You can usually find them at farmer’s markets this time of year–and I recommend doing a comparison taste test of Albions and other types of berries so that you can judge for yourself.

Camarosa is a large, bright, firm and flavorful fruit with a good sheen. This is one of the most common varieties of strawberries and represents almost half of California’s current acreage.

Aroma is a large, firm fruit with great flavor, a good red color, and a bright sheen.

Camino Real is a firm, dark red fruit with a good shelf life and very good flavor.

Diamante is a large, flavorful, firm fruit with a bright red sheen and a long shelf life.

Ventana is a bright red fruit, slightly lighter in color than Camarosa, with good flavor, shape and fruit size, and similar firmness and shelf-life to the Camarosa.

How can I tell if a strawberry is fresh?
Fresh strawberries should always be bright red in color and have a natural sheen to them with fresh looking green caps. Those not-so-fresh berries look dull or dry, and sometimes bruised or have brown on the green stems. Avoid strawberries with green or white tips. When buying strawberries at the supermarket, pay particular attention to any dampness or staining on the carton, especially at the bottom of the container. This may be evidence of significantly overripe, even decaying fruit.

What is the best way to store strawberries and maximize their lifespan?
You should always store strawberries in the refrigerator, as a single layer on a paper towel in a moisture proof container–but you can have two layers of berries if you separate them with paper towels to absorb excess moisture (I have had much success with this storage method and have been able to keep strawberries fresh in the fridge for up to a week.) And lastly, do not, I repeat Do Not EVER wash strawberries until you are ready to eat them, or they will become mushy and moldy–moisture is the enemy of fresh strawberries.

Quick and inspired serving suggestions
Always allow strawberries to come to room temperature before serving becasue it brings out their best flavor.

Try drizzling a yummy balsamic vinegar or a berry flavored balsamic vinegar over fresh strawberries, it intensifies their flavor and is a treat for the palate.

And one last suggestion that is always a ‘WOW’ is chocolate covered strawberries, which can be time consuming and labor intensive–but not with my recent top secret discovery, Dolci Frutta, a microwaveable chocolate that you can find at most supermarkets or Costco. It’s a high quality, very good tasting chocolate that you simply microwave for about minute or so in the container it comes in, stir, dip the berries one at a time, place the berries on wax paper and then refrigerate and viola! an inspired dessert.

An inspired and very Californian strawberry recipe
Cooking Light, May 2009

Strawberry-Avocado Salsa
Serve this sweet and savory salsa with roast chicken, sautéed fish, or grilled pork tenderloin. You can also enjoy it as a snack with baked tortilla chips.
1 cup finely chopped strawberries
1/4 cup finely chopped and peeled avocado
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; toss gently. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings

Hope you enjoyed this sweet little strawberry journey. Stay tuned for more foodie adventures in the future!
Berrylicious Babe

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