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It’s a berry good time of year

By Deirdre Parker Smith

deirdre.smith@salisburypost.com

Yes, strawberry season is here — it’s been a rough growing season, with frosts, freezes, multiple inches of rain. Growers have seen plenty of losses, but there are still an abundance of berries.

Patterson farms might be the first place you think of, but you can also find strawberries at Wetmore farms, Monday-Friday 8 a.m-6 p.m., and Saturdays, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.  Find them at 175 Farm Drive. Woodleaf, or call 704-278-2028 to make sure they are open.

Miller Farms, at 2198 Miller Road, China Grove, has strawberries at the farm and at the Salisbury-Rowan Farmer’s Market, which is open Wednesday and Saturdays 8 a.m.-noon at the corner of Fisher and Jackson streets. Call them at 704-202-5591.

And Elium Berry Farm strawberries are ready. You may think of Elium as a blueberry source, but they have strawberries, too, at 2085 Lake Road, just half a mile from Stokes Ferry Road. They are open Saturdays from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and weekdays after 6:30 p.m. Call 704-636-2459.

Besides being delicious, strawberries are high in vitamin C, higher than an orange. The Vitamin C helps your body heal, resist infections and maintain healthy bones, gums and teeth, according to information from the N.C. Strawberry Association.

Strawberries are a significant source of fiber and a good source of potassium and manganese. Strawberries are also rich in antioxidant compounds such as anthocyanin, quercetin, resveratrol and ellagic acid. Studies indicate that these compounds may help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, hypertension and Parkinson’s disease and reduce some of the cognitive declines of aging.

There is also evidence that strawberries have properties that may assist with weight loss and with diabetes control. Like other richly colored berries, they are truly a superfruit!

One serving of fresh strawberries (one cup or about 6-9 berries) contains only 50 calories, no fat, cholesterol or sodium, and 140 percent of the RDA for vitamin C

Frozen strawberries retain all the nutritional benefits of fresh strawberries.

Strawberries are the fifth most preferred fresh fruit in the United States, according to the USDA.

Freezing strawberries

Whole berries: Place one layer of clean, capped berries on a cookie sheet and freeze until firm. Remove from cookie sheet, package in freezer bags and seal.

Packing with sugar: Slice berries in halves or thirds. Mix with sugar (six cups sliced fruit to one cup sugar). Allow to stand until sugar dissolves (about 10-15 minutes). Pack the fruit and juice into freezer bags or containers. Leave 1/4-inch head space for pint containers.

Packing without sugar: Strawberries may also be packed whole or sliced without sugar or with minimal sugar, but the color and texture of the thawed fruit won’t be as good.

Care and handling

The best strawberries are the ones you pick yourself or buy from your local strawberry farm. These berries will be the freshest you can get, with little or no handling and travel.

Picking

Pick by pinching the stem of the berry between your thumb and forefinger. This will prevent damage to both the fruit and the strawberry plant. Leaving the caps on helps your strawberries last longer. When selecting berries look for the ones that are plump, firm and well colored. These are the best for all your needs — freezing, preserving or eating just the way they are.

Storing

Strawberries are best when prepared and eaten in the same day, but if you must keep them longer, store them in your refrigerator. Arrange the berries in a shallow container, separating out any damaged berries. Cover them loosely, and keep at 35 degrees for best results. Do not remove the caps or wash the berries until you are ready to use them. When caps are removed before use, the berries lose some of their moisture. Washing early tends to bruise them and the berries lose their freshness.

Preparing

When preparing (for whatever use), place the berries in a strainer and rinse with cool water. To remove the caps, give the caps a gentle twist or use the point of a sharp knife, trying not to remove any of the berry. The tip of an ordinary vegetable peeler makes a good tool for capping berries.

Simple Strawberry Cobbler

4 cups strawberries, cleaned and sliced

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup butter, cubed

Additional sugar for strawberries, to taste.

For a thicker, juicier filling, sprinkle strawberries with a couple tablespoons of sugar and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spread the strawberries evenly in an 8 or 9 inch square baking dish.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and 1 cup sugar.

Add the egg and mix until crumbly and the dry ingredients are completely incorporated. Use a fork to blend — do not use a mixer or food processor.

Spread over the berries and dot with the cubed butter.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the top is golden and the berries are bubbling. Cool slightly before serving.

— From Food.com

Strawberry Cream Cheese Bread/Cake

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup milk or half and half

1 1/2 cups strawberries, chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, optional

Grease and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan or a bundt pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and cream cheese until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Blend flour with creamed mixture until just blended. Add milk or half and half and just stir to blend.

Drain strawberries and blot dry. Carefully fold in strawberries and nuts, if using. Dough will be thick.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Some cooks mentioned in reviews that their breads ran over the top of the 9-by-5 pan. Others used a bundt pan and got good results. It can also be made into muffins; reduce the cooking time.

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Balsamic Dressing

2 cups sliced strawberries

4 cups (or more) fresh spinach

1 green onion, chopped, green and white parts

1/4 cup chopped pecans (or slivered almonds)

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (the older the better)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 tsp. honey

Salt and pepper to taste

To make the dressing, combine balsamic vinegar, mustard, olive oil and honey. You can also make the dressing without honey if the balsamic vinegar is sweet enough. Add salt and pepper.

Toss about half the dressing with the strawberries while you tear the spinach, chop the green onion and combine with the pecans. Add strawberries and mix lightly. Add feta or goat cheese and serve with remaining dressing.

— adapted from Emily’s Strawberry Balsamic Salad

Simple Fruit Salad Dressing

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 to 2 lemons

1/4 cup finely minced fresh mint

1 Tbsp. honey

Mix all ingredients and use on top of any fruit combination. Let sit one hour to blend.

Try strawberries, pineapple and kiwi to add up to about 4 cups of fruit.

Also try watermelon cubes, fresh strawberries and seedless grapes.

Go tropical with mango, pineapple and bananas.

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