Toi Degree column: May is National Strawberry Month

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 23, 2021

By Toi Degree
N.C. Cooperative Extension

It’s sweet, bright red, and can be used in a variety of ways, and oh yeah, they’re in season right now. You guessed it, strawberries! And, May is National Strawberry Month. We eat them fresh out of the garden, blend them in smoothies, add them to parfaits and bake them into pies. Strawberries tantalize us in ice cream and milkshakes, too. We create preserves with them and give them to our sweethearts covered in chocolate or whipped cream.

These slightly tart berries aren’t even berries. Strawberries belong to the rose family and reproduce from runners, not seeds. There are more than 400 different varieties, and each berry produces approximately 200 seeds on the outside of the fruit. They’re nutritious, too. Strawberries are low in sugar and an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.

Buying strawberries

Choose berries that are firm, brightly colored, sweet-scented, and have hulls (green caps) attached. Check underneath the top layer of strawberries in a box or basket for smashed or moldy berries. Do not buy boxes that are stained or leaking.

Storing strawberries

Strawberries will not ripen further after picking. When you bring home a box of berries, gently empty it and check the fruit. Use soft, overripe berries for eating right away. Throw away any smashed or moldy berries. Store strawberries in the refrigerator, loosely covered with plastic wrap or a paper towel until ready to use. Use berries within 1 or 2 days, washing and hulling them as you use them.

Using strawberries

Once strawberries are hulled and cut, they lose their vitamin C content quickly, so prepare them just before serving.

Although it is hard to improve on eating fresh strawberries just as they are, here are a few other ideas for using them:

  • Combine sliced strawberries and plain or vanilla yogurt for a lower-sugar alternative to commercial strawberry yogurt.
  • Serve vanilla yogurt as a dip for whole strawberries.
  • Fill a melon wedge with strawberries.
  • Serve sliced strawberries on top of: cold or cooked cereal; ice cream or sherbet; pancakes, waffles, or French toast (instead of syrup).
  • Add sliced strawberries to a fresh spinach salad, and serve with poppy seed dressing.
  • Pack fresh strawberries into an ice cream cone.

Here is one last tip I will leave you with… if you have eaten your weight in strawberries as I have and still have leftovers, freeze them.

Freezing guidelines 

  • Choose firm, fully ripe berries.
  • Wash only a few berries at a time to avoid bruising.
  • Drain well on a paper towel or colander.
  • Remove hulls.
  • Chill berries in ice water to lower its temperature for fast freezing.
  • Do not fill containers completely; allow for headspace.

Dry-sugar pack, is easy and gives the best flavor and color to sliced or crushed berries. To prepare berries for the dry-sugar pack, halve, quarter, slice or crush clean berries in a bowl. Sprinkle sugar over berries, using 1/3 to ¾  cup sugar for each quart of fruit. Gently mix berries until sugar is completely dissolved. Package, and freeze promptly.

Syrup pack, mix 1¼ cups water to each 1 cup sugar. Dissolve the sugar in cold or hot water. If hot water is used, chill the syrup before using it. Use about ½  to 1/3 cup of syrup for each pint container. Place the whole or sliced berries in containers and cover with cold syrup, package, and freeze. Artificial sweeteners may be used.

Unsweetened pack, place whole, sliced, or crushed berries into containers. Cover with water or berry juice; package, and freeze. Berries can also be frozen on trays in the freezer and put into containers as they are frozen. This gives you opportunities to use smaller amounts.

Strawberries are, in my opinion, one of nature’s most perfect fruits, and we are fortunate that we can get them fresh right here in Rowan County. So, if reading this article has put you in the mood for strawberries, you can purchase berries from one of the farms listed here:

As you can see, each farm has a page on Facebook so this should make planning your trip to pick up your berries a bit easier. Also know that if you can’t get out to the farm during the week, you can stop by the Farmers’ Market and pick up some there. The Salisbury/Rowan Farmers’ Market is located at 228 E. Kerr Street in Salisbury, and is open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

Enjoy your strawberries!

Toi N. Degree is associate family and consumer education agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Contact her at 704-216-8970 or by email at

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