Arguably one of the most popular berries here in the U.S., around 94% of households consume these red delicious beauties and according to the USDA, the average American eats around 3.4 pounds fresh and another 1.8 pounds frozen each year.
Here in California, we produce around 75% of the U.S. crop which is right around 1 billion pounds each year. Florida is a close second followed by North Carolina in third. These may be the top three states but actually, every state in the U.S. grows strawberries.
Incredibly enough, strawberries, which are members of the Rosaceae family, are not actually even a true berry or fruit. Believe it or not, they are just an enlarged stem end of the plant's flower. Also, I am sure most have noticed that the seeds on a strawberry are on the exterior, this distinguishes them from all berries and fruits, which normally have their seeds on the inside.
There are over 100 species of strawberries that grow all around the world but the most commonly known strawberries here in the U.S. come from two unique species that are native to the Americas. Fragaria Virginiana and Fragaria Chiloensis were both taken to France in the 1600s and 1700s where they were widely grown in European gardens and then cultivated into the worldwide species, Fragaria Ananassa, which is our modern-day strawberry.
There are hundreds of different attributes such as resistance to diseases, heat tolerance, flavor profiles, size, shapes, and even colors. These are broken down into three different groups: June-bearing, Everbearing, and Day-neutral.
June-bearing, which produce in June hence their name, are the most common and actually produce the largest strawberries of the three.
Everbearing produces two harvests a year, one in spring and another in late summer or fall but, if you are lucky and the weather is permitting you may get a third harvest. They also thrive in hotter climates so you will see them here in California the most.
Last, but certainly not least, is the very unique Day-neutral. These plants produce great harvest especially in their first year planted. Whenever temperatures are between 35-85 degrees they flower and set strawberries, generally producing for around five months. The only downside to this type is their size, which is way smaller than the other two groups.
This week all of our Farm Box members will get their first taste of spring fruit with Albion strawberries (which are Everbearing) thanks to our friends at Bautista Family Farms. This is a fairly new variety here in California, with their high sugar content and larger size they make the perfect snack or great ingredient in your next jelly or jam.
Strawberries are an amazing source of antioxidants, vitamins A, C, E, and the B-complex group as well as important minerals such as fluorine, potassium, manganese, iron, copper, and iodine. They also may decrease your risk of cancer and heart disease, as well as helps regulate your blood sugar. Just be careful as strawberry allergies are rather common, especially among children, anyone sensitive to birch pollen or apples may experience some symptoms.
Strawberries are an extremely versatile fruit and always a chef's top pick due to the sweet and savory flavors from raw and cooked applications. You can make pies, ice creams, jellies, jams, syrups, cheesecakes, top off salads, compote from cooking them down to even beverages and cocktails. Some complementary pairings may include melons, citrus, other berries, rhubarb, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, sour cream, ricotta, mascarpone, yogurt, and even liquors such as amaretto, champagne, kirsch, and Grand Marnier.
This fruit is so popular and delicious that I am sure I don't have to try and sell you on eating them. I just hope this bit of information will help you out the next time you are looking for that perfect strawberry.