Strawberries: short growing season begins

Article Published: May. 31, 2012 | Modified: May. 31, 2012
Strawberries: short growing season begins

Mountain strawberry plants are finally starting to produce. While available in grocery stores year round, but there’s nothing like the taste and smell of sweet strawberries grown locally and picked fresh. North Carolina is the fourth largest producer of strawberries in the country. The strawberries found at roadside stands are often from warmer parts of North Carolina.

The best quality strawberries have a distinctive sweet scent and intense flavor that makes them irresistible. As a guilt-free treat, they contain only 50 calories per cup and are a super source of antioxidants and vitamin C.

Don’t delay gratification, as they are highly perishable and only last for a few days in the refrigerator. It’s best to wash them right before eating.

The local strawberry season may be as short as four weeks, so it’s smart to freeze fresh berries for later in the year. The process is simple. Wash and cap the strawberries. Place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and put them in the freezer. Later, place the frozen berries in freezer bags. Simply remove the number of berries you need for specific recipes. These berries are great in smoothies or mixed with other fruits for a taste of springtime all year long.

A member of the Rosaceae family, strawberries have their seeds on the outside of the fruit, which means, botanically speaking, it’s not a berry at all, rather an “aggregate fruit.” The average strawberry has 150 to 200 seeds on its surface.

A red ripe strawberry is a sweet, juicy treat that kicks off the fresh fruit season. Pair with spring spinach and homemade sesame and poppy seed dressing for an impressive side dish.

Spinach and N.C. Strawberry Salad

2 bunches spinach, rinsed and torn into small pieces
4 cups strawberries, sliced
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup white sugar
¼ teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

In a large bowl, toss together spinach and strawberries.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the other ingredients. Pour over the spinach and strawberries to coat.

Recipe from the NC strawberry project, Chef Mark Allison, Johnson and Wales University

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with NC Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups., (828)264-3061.

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