Strawberries are packed with vitamins making them one of Michigan’s healthiest treats.
A few more weeks of warm weather and Michigan strawberries will be ripening, ready for everyone to enjoy. If conditions are favorable, strawberries are available between June and July. Varieties that grow well in Michigan include Guardian, Surecrop, Midway, Red Chief and Sparkle. Gilbert and Ozark Beauty are excellent for freezing, while Red Chief and Guardian are recommended varieties for preserves. Raritan, Delite, Holiday, Earliglow and Scarlet varieties are additional varieties that also grow well in Michigan.
Michigan State University Extension recommends selecting or picking medium sized strawberries that are firm, plump and deep red in color. Once strawberries are picked they will not ripen further. Strawberries are quick to perish and must be treated with care once harvested. Avoid fruit that is bruised, damaged or moldy. Store strawberries in a box with holes and cover with plastic wrap or put in a plastic bag with holes. Research shows two days as maximum for refrigerator storage before vitamins begin to decrease and the strawberries begin to break down. It is recommended to store strawberries in refrigeration at temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Strawberries are packed with vitamin C, fiber and have high levels of antioxidants; they are good sources of manganese and potassium as well. One serving (eight large strawberries count as a one cup serving) provides more vitamin C than an orange. This heart shaped berry is not only good for our hearts, which is associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, but the phytochemicals also have anti-inflammatory properties.
In addition to being consumed fresh, strawberries can be frozen, made into preserves, jam or jelly or syrup. Dry strawberries can be used in salads and as flavor blended in favorite dairy products such as smoothies, milk shakes and ice-cream.
Freezing berries involves selecting fresh, ripe strawberries. Wash them in cold water and do not soak. Remove the caps and drain well. There are several options for freezing: syrup pack method, sugar pack method, unsweetened pack method and tray freezing (dry pack). The sugar and syrup pack methods will produce better quality frozen strawberries than packing strawberries without sweetening.
- Syrup pack method: pack berries into containers and cover with cold 50 percent syrup (one part water to one part sugar), leaving a half-inch of headspace. Seal, label, date and freeze the berries.
- Sugar pack method: add one part sugar to six parts strawberries and mix thoroughly. Put into containers, leaving a half-inch of headspace. Seal, label, date and freeze the berries.
- Unsweetened pack method: pack into containers, leaving a half-inch of inch headspace. To ensure better color, cover with water containing one teaspoon ascorbic acid to every one quart of water. Seal, label and freeze the berries.
- Tray freezing (dry pack) method: slice berries into one-quarter inch slices, spread onto cookie sheet in single layer, place in freezer. Once frozen, place strawberries into freezer bags, seal, label and date the frozen berries. This method works nicely for pre-packaging berries for smoothies.
Be sure to check out the free Michigan Fresh fact sheets that provide recipes, gardening tips and preservation techniques for over 80 Michigan grown foods available. Fact sheets are available for free at michiganfresh.msue.msu.edu. The goal of Michigan Fresh is to help you and your family eat, preserve, grow and learn about all that’s Michigan fresh. Strawberries are Michigan fresh – for you!