Updated: March 28, 2013 6:03AM
Today is National Strawberry Day. Yes, I’m sure you knew that but I didn’t until I looked it up for today’s column.
Last January I was in Plant City, Fla., eating their delicious strawberry shortcake at the Parkesdale Farm Market. People flock to Parkesdale Farm Market from across the United States, even as far as Europe, just for a bowl of their World Famous Strawberry Shortcake. Served fresh from the fields, sweet sliced berries sit atop a bed of shortcake with a healthy dollop of whipped cream. I ate the whole thing for lunch — it was my lunch and it was delicious.
Founded in 1956, Parkesdale Farm Market is the largest family-operated Strawberry & Citrus Market in Florida. Their strawberry farm harvests more than 3 million pounds of strawberries every year. Thousands of people visit their local market each year for the sole purpose of tasting their world-famous strawberry shortcake.
Anyone running for political office — presidential candidates included — comes to this farm market to enjoy the shortcake and makes sure their picture is taken for publicity.
We’re seeing strawberries in our grocery stores from Plant City right now.
Take a look and enjoy strawberries grown here in the U.S. this time of year.
The Romans prized wild strawberries for their medicinal properties. Ounce for ounce, strawberries have more vitamin C than citrus fruit. According to the American Cancer Society, foods rich in vitamin C may lower the risk of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.
Look for bright red berries with fresh green caps on. When you remove the caps you tear cells in the berries, activating ascorbic acid oxidase, an enzyme that destroys vitamin C.
Visually check each package, making sure there are no signs of mold growth. If one berry is molded, mold spores will have traveled throughout the entire package. Research has linked mold to some forms of cancer. Always avoid moldy berries.
When purchasing strawberries by the pound, 11/2 pounds equal one quart. This will yield about four cups of sliced strawberries.
Use strawberries as soon after harvesting or purchasing as possible. Refrigerator storage does not improve the quality of fresh strawberries. Berries should not be left at room temperature for more than a few hours.
Warm temperatures cause a browning effect in strawberries. The pigments that make strawberries red, anthocyanin, are heat sensitive. They break apart and turn brown when exposed to heat. Strawberries also lose heat-sensitive vitmain C during browning, heating and cooking.
Store unwashed berries loosely covered with plastic wrap in the coldest part of the refrigerator for two to three days at most. Do not wash berries until ready to use.
To wash, place berries in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Do not allow berries to sit in water as they will lose color and flavor.
After washing, remove the green cap with a plastic-tipped vegetable peeler or paring knife without removing any of the fruit.
STRAWBERRY AND SPINACH SALAD
Makes 8 servings
This salad is teaming with vitamins A and C. The bright green of the spinach and contrasting red of the strawberries are beautiful and the flavors are excellent together.
1 pint fresh strawberries
2 bunches fresh spinach
1/2 cup sugar
11/2 tablespoons minced green onion
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic or cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Wash strawberries under cool running water. Remove caps and set aside to drain.
Wash spinach and remove large tough stems. Tear large leaves into small pieces. Drain.
In a medium bowl combine remaining ingredients and whisk together.
Slice strawberries into halves or quarters and place in a large bowl. Add dry spinach.
Cover with dressing and toss.