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Prairie Fare: Ponder the Lore of the Fruit of the Season

Since ancient times, strawberries have been promoted for their healing properties.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

Do you know which fruit I'm describing with the follow clues?

  • In areas of Bavaria, as part of an annual spring tradition, people attach baskets of this fruit to the horns of their cattle. According to the Bavarians, the fruit attracts magical elves, which then repay the ranchers by giving them healthy calves and cows that produce a lot of milk.
  • If you break this fruit in half and share it with a member of the opposite sex, you'll fall in love.
  • American Indians mixed corn meal with this fruit to make bread. Colonists liked it and developed a now-favorite recipe.
  • (After this clue, you'll know for sure.) The red color and heart shape of this fruit was a symbol for Venus, the goddess of love.

Yes, I'm referring to the strawberry, a juicy, sweet member of the rose family linked to love and featured in strawberry shortcake. This history and lore was adapted from information published by the University of Illinois Extension Service.

I picked up some mammoth strawberries the other day at the grocery store. They were the type usually dipped in chocolate and featured on buffet tables at spring wedding and graduation receptions.

Perhaps wedding planners know the supposed link between strawberries and romance. Maybe they just know a tasty, good deal when they see one.

Strawberries are "in season" in the spring, and they appear in local grocery stores at peak quality and a more reasonable price, compared with other times during the year.

Since ancient times, strawberries have been promoted for their healing properties. Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, an antioxidant nutrient that helps protect our body's cells from damage. They also contain folate, fiber, potassium and a little iron.

You get all this nutrition from strawberries without investing many calories. One cup of strawberries only has about 55 calories. Of course, that's without being dipped in whipped cream or chocolate.

Strawberries remain one of the most popular fruits. On average, each American eats about 3.5 pounds of strawberries a year.

At the store or in a strawberry patch later this summer, choose strawberries that are bright red, with bright green caps. While strawberries may become rosier, they won't become sweeter.

Handle strawberries gently. Leave the caps on until after you clean them or serve them with their green "handles" in place. Rinse strawberries with running, cool water just before you plan to serve them. Don't let them soak.

If you want to preserve some berries for future enjoyment, you simply can pack them in plastic freezer bags, label with the date and freeze. Some people prefer to freeze them quickly on a tray and then pack the berries in bags. That way the berries remain separate from each other. If desired, you can add some sugar (about one part sugar to six parts berries) before freezing; then mix gently and freeze.

For a change, try this colorful accompaniment to top your grilled chicken or fish.

Strawberry Salsa

1 c. coarsely chopped strawberries

1 Tbsp. orange juice

1 tsp. grated orange peel

1 green onion, finely chopped, top included

1 tsp. Dijon-style mustard

2 Tbsp. dried currants

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Chill.

Makes six servings, 1/4 cup each. Each serving has 20 calories, no fat, 22 milligrams of sodium, 0.5 gram of fiber and 15 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin C.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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