For Venus, the Goddess of Love, the strawberry was a potent symbol because of its heart shape and red color. Legend has it that if you break a double strawberry in half and share it with a member of the opposite sex, you will fall in love with each other.
A member of the rose family, the strawberry is unique in that it is the only fruit with seeds on the outside rather than the inside. To be specific, however, the strawberry really isn’t a fruit or a berry, but the enlarged receptacle of the flower.
Fruit or berry or receptacle of flower, nothing says summer like a nice bowl of fresh Maine-grown strawberries. Now is the time to get out there and pick them. They are sweet, naturally low in calories and sugar and considered by many dietitians to be a “superfood” because they are an excellent source of vitamin C. Just eight strawberries provide 140 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C for children.
Strawberries also are high in folate, potassium and fiber. They help to boost the immune system. In the 13th century, the French cultivated strawberries to use as a medicinal herb for numerous digestive discomforts. Patients enjoyed the medicinal fruit treatment so much they began eating them as a food, accompanied with cream or wine.
American Indians inspired the all-time favorite American dessert, strawberry shortcake. They
introduced the Colonists to their style — baked bread made simply of cornmeal, topped with crushed strawberries. The Colonists then applied their English baking skills and created their own rich version of strawberry shortcake.
Since strawberries do not ripen after they are picked, be sure to select only those with a fresh shiny look and a bright red color. Check to see that the green stems look fresh and are not wilted. Refrigerate your berries soon after purchasing. Don’t wash the strawberries until shortly before you are going to serve them. Berries are highly perishable and the extra water causes their cells to break down more quickly, leading to rot. Wash the berries gently and pat them dry before removing the stems. This method prevents excess water from entering the berries from the stem end.
To freeze strawberries, wash and dry them, remove the stems and arrange on a single layer on a baking sheet. Place the sheet in the freezer until the berries are solidly frozen. Then pack them into a zip-lock freezer bag and keep them frozen until ready to use.
Enjoy fresh strawberries sliced in a tossed green salad, stir them into pancake batter, make a strawberry parfait or mousse, dip in chocolate or try in this strawberry muffin recipe.
Makes 18 muffins
2-1/2 C. all-purpose flour
2/3 C. sugar
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1-1/2 C. sliced fresh strawberries
1 C low-fat buttermilk
1/3 C butter, melted
1-1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
Vegetable cooking spray
1-1/2 T sugar
Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl and stir well. Add fresh sliced strawberries, stir well, and make a well in the center of the mixture.
Combine buttermilk, melted butter, vanilla extract, egg and egg white.
Add to dry mixture, stirring until just moistened.
Divide batter evenly among 18 muffin cups sprayed with cooking spray or use cupcake liners. If desired, sprinkle the 1-1/2 Tbsp. sugar evenly over muffins. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean. Remove from pans immediately. Let cool on wire rack.
Each muffin: 140 calories, 23 g. carbohydrates, 3 g. protein, 4 g. fat
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian who lives in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.