For me, one of the great pleasures of spring and summer is picking and eating berries. Strawberries are the earliest berries ready for harvest everywhere I've lived, so every year, eager for the season, I find myself on my hands and knees in a strawberry field, covered in mud with red stained teeth and nails. As with most produce, strawberries are best when they are in season, from late spring to early summer. While you can get them year-round in grocery stores, store-bought strawberries never compare favorably with freshly picked ones. That said, if you know what to look for, you can find respectable strawberries everywhere from the field to the farm stand to the supermarket.
Choosing fresh strawberries:
Color, while important, is not the most reliable indicator of strawberry flavor. Deep red color on the whole berry, up to the greens, indicates ripeness, not sweetness. Even after berries are picked off the vine, they continue to develop anthocyanins, the pigments that make strawberries red. However, they do not continue to produce sugars, so a strawberry can be very red and ripe, but still not sweet. So how do you choose scrumptious strawberries? Give 'em a whiff. Sniff for a strong, sweet, strawberry smell. The most fragrant berries will also be the most flavorful.
If you buy a little container of strawberries that you will eat within a few days, you don't need to do anything special at all, except store them in the fridge. Since strawberries are sensitive to cold temperatures, don't put them on the top shelf, the coldest part of the fridge. Anywhere else in the fridge is fine. Do not wash strawberries before storing them in the fridge. The moisture will speed up their deterioration. Similarly, do not cut off the greens before storing in the fridge.
For berries you're not going to eat within three days, take care to store them properly, so that they will keep 7-10 days. Lay a paper towel to cover the bottom of an airtight container. Place the strawberries in the container in layers, separating layers of berries with paper towels.
If you love strawberries as much as I do, you will have more than you can eat in 10 days. Freeze them. First, hull the berries. Second, wash them. Third, let them air dry or gently dry them off with towels. When the strawberries are mostly dry, put them in freezer bags. Shake the bag to distribute the strawberries evenly in a single layer. Don't overfill the bags. Press out as much air as you can without squishing the berries. Seal the bag, label, and freeze.
Side note: Frozen strawberries from the grocery store are often quite good, as they are flash frozen at the peak of ripeness.
I use a small paring knife for this task. Slide the knife into the berry next to the greens, angling the knife so that it points toward the center of the berry. Slice in a circle around the greens, removing the greens and the core beneath them.
Alternatively, use a straw. Push the straw up through the bottom (pointy end) of the strawberry all the way to the top, pushing off the greens. I have not tried this method, but have read about it multiple places. It seems like it would waste a lot of good strawberry, since the core is only right by the greens. But it might be a lot faster. It takes me about an hour to hull 7 pounds of strawberries with a knife.
Now you are ready to eat some strawberries! Here are some recipes.
My name is Hillary. This blog is about the everyday food I prepare in my kitchen, with tips and recipes for easy, wholesome, and diet friendly meals. I have been chanting "cheese please!" since I was a toddler, although lately I've cut back on dairy.