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Tamarillos »« Raspberries

Strawberries


Description

As soon as the days start getting warmer and longer, the eager anticipation of new-season strawberries begins for many of us.

Sweet and full of flavour, no Christmas meal in New Zealand is complete without strawberries, and while they’re in season they fly off shelves.

Strawberries are a member of the rose family, and as such aren’t true berries. Interestingly, that family association means that if you add a few drops of rosewater to strawberries, it dramatically enhances their flavour.

Strawberries contain more vitamin C than oranges, and are also high in potassium, folate, iodine, and fibre. They also contain ellagic acid, an antioxidant compound that may have anticancer properties. A word of caution, though: strawberries can be an allergen for babies, so it’s recommended that you don’t introduce them into your baby’s diet until they’re a year old.

Strawberries are one of those fruits that don’t continue to ripen after they’ve been picked, so look for plump, fragrant, and firm ones. If you buy them in a punnet, look at the bottom of the punnet to make sure you’re not getting any mouldy or leaking ones. If you do find a mouldy or rotten one, remove it because it will spoil the rest surprisingly quickly. Store them in the fridge for two or three days, and serve them at room temperature. You can also freeze them, but take out the hulls first and freeze them in a single layer before transferring them to another container.

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History

Strawberries get their name from the straw that was once commonly used as a mulch to grow them in. While types of strawberries have grown wild in many areas for centuries, the strawberry we know has only been properly cultivated since the 18th century, when a French engineer found a variety of strawberry in South America that grew larger than the fruit back home. He brought back samples, which didn’t really thrive until they crossed themselves with a North American strawberry that was planted close by. The result was Fragaria × ananassa, a large, sweet, and juicy strawberry.

The romantic associations given to strawberries are nothing new – in rural France they’ve been regarded as an aphrodisiac for centuries, and with their red colour and heart shape have also been used as the symbol for Venus, the goddess of love.

Due to the fruit being so perishable, for a long time it was a luxury reserved only for the wealthy, until rail networks make transportation possible.

Uses

Strawberries and cream is a classic combination, and the fruit is particularly good in various combinations of meringue and whipped cream. Put them on top of a pavlova, or add chopped strawberries to Eton Mess or ambrosia.

Strawberries dipped in chocolate is a great dish for a child’s birthday party, with the chocolate hiding the fact they’re eating fruit!

Strawberries go well in summer salads, especially with balsamic vinegar-based dressings.

Facts

The main variety of strawberry you’ll find in New Zealand is Pajaro, which was selected for its bright colour, large size, and sweetness.

In folklore, strawberries were said to whiten your teeth.

The strawberry is the only fruit that carries its seeds on the outside – and botanically, each of those seeds is considered a separate fruit.



Tamarillos »« Raspberries

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