Strawberries

Strawberries are the first fruit of the growing season in North Carolina, which places third in the country for the berry’s production.

The first fruit of the growing season, North Carolina strawberries boast a distinctive sweet scent and intense flavor. In 2017, the crop was valued at $26.9 million, ranking third in the U.S. after California and Florida.

Not only are strawberries delicious, they contain compounds with potent antioxidant power. Antioxidants help lower your risk of cardiovascular events and have demonstrated anti-cancer promoting activities in the body.

Like many varieties of fruit, strawberries are one of the original “fast foods,” requiring only rinsing to make a great-tasting snack.

In-season produce is typically top quality and a best buy. So, go ahead and purchase more than you need to snack on. Strawberries are easily frozen and make a great addition to recipes.

Frozen strawberries may be used to make smoothies or as an ingredient in a fruit salad or parfait. Simply spread a single layer of washed berries on trays to freeze. If planning to use in a salad or parfait, slice them first. Once the fruit is frozen, package, label and date, then return to the freezer. The fruit pieces remain loose and can be poured from the package.

Strawberries pair well with salad greens. This recipe includes quinoa, a mild tasting, ancient grain originating from Peru and Bolivia. It can be pricey, and rice may be substituted.

Quinoa Strawberry Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients for dressing:

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon or brown mustard

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for salad:

½ cup dry quinoa or rice

2 cups baby spinach leaves, torn or coarsely chopped

2 cups arugula, torn or coarsely chopped or substitute 4 cups other salad greens

1 cup sliced strawberries

¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted

1 handful of fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

Instructions

1. Place quinoa in medium saucepan along with 1¾ cups water. Bring to boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes or until cooked. Or follow instructions on package for cooking rice.

2. Remove lid and cook until all water is evaporated. Remove from heat and let cool.

3. Make the dressing by combining all ingredients in a bowl or jar.

4. Place the quinoa, salad greens, strawberries, toasted almonds and basil in bowl and combine.

5. Add and toss in dressing just prior to serving.

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with NC Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. Contact her by emailing margie_mansure@ncsu.edu or calling (828) 264-3061.

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