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Strawberries 101

Everybody loves strawberries, there's so much to do with them! Let us show you how.

04 Nov 2009

An apple a day? A punnet of strawberries is far more likely to keep the doctor away. That according to British nutritionist Patrick Holford, author of several books on healthy eating including the New Optimum Nutrition Bible. "Strawberries are as close as you can get to the perfect fruit," he says. "In addition to being an important food if you're watching your weight (because they have little sugar, no fat and are low GI) they provide numerous benefits, from boosting energy levels to slowing the signs of aging."

True enough, five strawberries have more anti-oxidants than 4 bananas. They also help prevent cancer, colds, hayfever and asthma and are reputed to be an aphrodisiac and to help with hangovers.

Strawberries are an especially tasty source of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). In fact, one cup of fresh strawberries provides about 88 mg of ascorbic acid, which more than meets the Recommended Daily Dietary allowance of 45 milligrams for the average adult. Vitamin C is well retained when the strawberries are handled carefully, but capping, injuring, cutting, or juicing, however, will reduce the vitamin content. They are also one of the few sources, along with grapes and cherries, of ellagic acid, a compound which has been shown to prevent carcinogens from turning healthy cells into cancerous ones.

To soothe sunburn, lighten your skin or even treat acne, mash a few ripe strawberries and spread the pulp over your face. Relax for 10 to 15 minutes and then rinse off with lukewarm water. The astringent quality of the berries will cleanse your skin and close your pores. Strawberries or raspberries can also be used to whiten both skin and teeth, simply rub on and leave for 10 minutes.

The word strawberry comes from the Old English streawberige, most likely because the plant sends out runners which could be likened to pieces of straw.

The strawberry is a member of the rose family, and native to Eurasia and North America (extending over to North Africa and down to Chile in South America), and locals ate them for eons before the first colonists shipped strawberry plants back to Europe, as early as 1600, and where they were later commercially grown.

The modern Garden Strawberry Fragaria ananassa, which is the main species grown these days, arose in the gardens of Europe as a hybrid between two New World species.

Strawberries have been successfully grown in South Africa for the last 50 years, with Gauteng and the Western Cape producing most, but also in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

A number of varieties are available (both fresh and processed) for local consumption and the export market. Among the varieties are the Spanish Sabrosa, the Italian Naid and Eris, the Uval and Doron from Israel (mostly exported), the Mara de Bois variety from France, and the big and juicy Commitment and Endurance from America.

Strawberries are farmed all year round, but September to December is peak season.

5 things to do with strawberries:
Strawberry liqueur
Lemon yoghurt with strawberries
Strawberry and goats cheese salad with smoked chicken
Scottish salmon
Real strawberry shortcakes


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