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Strawberries are one of the most popular summer berries…or are they? Are strawberries berries? Let’s dig into this culinary curiosity, then learn how to pick the best strawberries, clean them and use them in lots of scrumptious ways!
Did You Know? Strawberries Are Not Technically Berries
Believe it or not, strawberries are not berries! They are commonly called berries in culinary and everyday language, but they actually don’t meet the botanical definition of a true berry. Botanically speaking, strawberries are classified as an “accessory fruit” or “pseudocarp” because each berry is actually many tiny fruits embedded in the flesh of the strawberry. The brown or white dots, which are usually thought of as seeds, are actually tiny fruits called “achenes,” each of which has a tiny seed inside.
All that being the case, in common usage, strawberries are referred to as berries due to their small size, sweet taste, and similar characteristics to other fruits commonly known as berries.
When is Strawberry Season?
Strawberry season varies depending on the region, climate and variety of strawberry. For example, you can grow “June bearing” strawberry plants, which only produce fruit for one month (around June). Or you could grow “everbearing” plants that will produce fruit all summer. Everbearing are my favorite strawberry plants to grow not only because they produce so much fruit but because they come back every year. You can find everbearing varieties at places like Stark Bros (which is where I got my original starter plants).
In the Northern Hemisphere, strawberry season typically starts in late spring, around May, and continues through June or early July. However, the specific timing may differ based on the local climate and growing conditions. It’s best to check with local farmers’ markets or grocery stores to determine the availability of fresh, locally grown strawberries in your area.
Choosing the Best Berries
When selecting strawberries at the store or farmer’s market, there are a few things you can look for to choose the best ones:
- Color: Look for strawberries that have a bright, vibrant red color. Avoid berries that have green or white patches, as they may not be fully ripe.
- Texture: Gently touch the strawberries to assess their firmness. They should be plump, firm, and have a smooth skin. Avoid berries that are mushy or have soft spots.
- Size: Size is not necessarily an indicator of quality, but larger strawberries tend to have a slightly milder flavor. Choose the size that suits your preference.
- Fragrance: Give the container a gentle sniff. Ripe strawberries should have a sweet, fragrant aroma. If they lack a noticeable scent, they may not be fully ripe or flavorsome.
- Stems: Check the stems to ensure they are green and fresh-looking. If the stems are brown or dried out, it could indicate that the berries are past their prime.
Keeping Strawberries Fresh
Once you’ve selected the best berries, here’s how to store them:
- Store properly: Remove any spoiled or damaged strawberries before storing. Place the remaining strawberries in a shallow container or on a paper towel-lined plate to allow for airflow.
- Refrigerate: Keep the strawberries in the refrigerator to slow down the ripening process and extend their freshness. It’s best to store them unwashed and uncut to prevent excess moisture from impacting the berries.
- Don’t wash until ready to use: Washing strawberries before storing can make them more prone to spoilage. Wait to wash them until just before you plan to eat or use them.
- Avoid moisture: Excess moisture can cause strawberries to become mushy or moldy. Keep them dry by placing a paper towel in the container to absorb any excess moisture.
- Handle with care: Strawberries are delicate, so handle them gently to prevent bruising. Avoid stacking or piling them on top of each other.
- Use them quickly: While strawberries can last for a few days in the refrigerator, they are best when consumed within a 2-3 days for maximum flavor and freshness.
How to Clean Strawberries
Ready to use your berries? Here’s how to clean them:
- Rinse: Place the strawberries in a colander or strainer and give them a gentle rinse under cool running water. Avoid using hot water, as it can make the berries mushy.
- Remove the stems: After washing, remove the green stems by either cutting them off with a small knife or gently pinching them near the base and twisting to pull them out.
- Pat dry: Once the strawberries are clean, gently pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels. Avoid vigorous drying, as it can bruise the berries.
It’s important not to soak strawberries for an extended period as they can absorb excess water, which may affect their texture and flavor. Wash strawberries just before you plan to use them because moisture can make them more prone to spoilage.
How to Freeze Strawberries
We love going berry picking in the summer, which usually means we have too many berries to eat in a couple days. Luckily, strawberries are easy to freeze! Here’s how you can freeze your fresh berries:
- Prep the strawberries: Start by washing the strawberries under cool running water. Gently pat them dry with a paper towel. Remove the stems and any green leaves.
- Slice or keep whole: Decide whether you want to freeze the strawberries whole or sliced. If you prefer sliced strawberries, cut them into your desired size.
- Arrange on a baking sheet: Place the strawberries in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Make sure the strawberries are not touching each other, allowing them to freeze individually.
- Flash-freeze: Put the baking sheet with the strawberries into the freezer and let them freeze for about 1-2 hours or until they are firm. Flash-freezing helps prevent the strawberries from sticking together.
- Transfer to a freezer bag or container: Once the strawberries are frozen, transfer them into airtight freezer bags or containers. Remove any excess air from the bags before sealing to prevent freezer burn. Label the bags with the date for reference.
- Return to the freezer: Place the sealed bags or containers back in the freezer. The strawberries can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.