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I have recently moved to New Orleans and my new neighbor from across the street greeted me with two pints of fresh strawberries. He explained that he had picked them up at a stand on his way back from a trip out of the city. It was a juicy coincidence that I had been working on strawberry desserts, having picked up berries in the market labeled “local.” Most berries don’t come to market until later in the spring, so it has been a nice surprise having delicious and amazingly fresh berries this early in the year.
In looking into this I found that Louisiana produces a lot of berries and interestingly the strawberry is the state fruit. Apparently the state was a major producer in the 30’s and 40’s, with over 30,000 acres in production. (Right now California has about 23,000 acres in production). Louisiana’s production has fallen to only about 500 acres now. The season peaks here earlier, with berries from California and Florida beginning later in April and running through July. You can buy pretty good berries in most months now because production in Central and South America provides almost an almost year round supply.
No matter where they are from or which month you find them in the market keep in mind that strawberries won’t ripen any further. What you see is what you get -- if there’s any green or white around the stem, it will still be there a few days later. By then the berry won’t be all that good for eating. They bruise easily and it’s best to buy those that have not been too tightly packed together (I never purchase them if they are wrapped in plastic).
I try not to buy strawberries unless I know that I am going to use them within two days. The nice thing about this is even if you have planned them for a special dessert the leftovers make a luscious sweet snack with a cup having only about 50 calories. Even better, there’s 3 grams of fiber, no fat, relatively low sugar (considering how sweet they can be) and a ton of Vitamin C. Nothing to feel guilty about here and they’re especially great for kids. In fact, over half of children pick the strawberry as their favorite fruit.
Don’t rinse or stem your berries until the last minute. The water left on the berries after washing will promote faster spoilage. Store them in the coldest part of the fridge.
This coming weekend is the 36th annual Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival. Gonna have to see this with the parade beginning on Saturday morning!
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
April 9, 2007