All About Strawberries

Few berries evoke summertime nostalgia the way that strawberries do. If you have a chance to get to a pick-you-own patch this year, it's worth it. Strawberry picking is not only fun, it will give you an ample stock for baking, making jam, or just eating straight out of the crate. Make sure to save those natural gems, though! Store strawberries properly as to save your summer produce for as long as possible.

Strawberries are great for your health. They can help keep your teeth white and boost your immune system with lots of vitamin C. Just like acai berries and blueberries, strawberries also contain potent antioxidants, which can help your body fight off those pesky toxins. Strawberries are low in calories making them a tasty and healthy treat whether you eat them straight or dipped in yogurt.

If you're planning on growing strawberries this season, keep in mind that the plants will need full sun. Strawberry plants do best in soil where nightshades have grown, affects the pH balance for the better. Pick the strawberries when they're at their ripest, which can mean a day or two after they've reached their full color. Taste testing is crucial (and delicious!)

Try making your own jam or even in a whole-wheat cake with your strawberries. If you want to really experiment with these tasty fruits, try adding them on top of pizza with meyer lemon.

What's your favorite way to use strawberries? How will you be using them this summer?

Photo: Lindsay Hunt

Ingredient Focus: Raspberries

Rubus idaeus is the scientific name for raspberries and they are just that: ideal rubies. Who wouldn't want to snack on these luscious berries? Now is the time to get started. Raspberries are perennial berries that blossom from June to early fall. This summer, get outside by packing your own picnic equipped with raspberry-spangled fruit salad and sit outside and enjoy the sun. You can also enjoy the summer sun by visiting a farmers' market and grabbing raspberries as a great healthy grab-n-go snack to take with you!

Raspberries are sweet and juicy with a nice subtle tartness to them. Besides being one of the juiciest and tastiest berries around, raspberries are jam-packed with nutritional benefits like vitamins A and C. They also contain ellagic acid, which is in the same family as tannins and helps provide the body with loads of antioxidants. Eating them is a delicious way to protect your cells from damage!

If you're looking to grow raspberries, be sure to keep them in the full sun and slightly acidic soil. Raspberries grow best in mild winter/cool summer areas. Using a trellis will make your raspberry growing that much easier as it can help you with the pruning and harvesting process. Watch out for over-ripe berries that are too squishy or fall off the stem. Pick them as soon as they are bright red and juicy.

Raspberries are a perfect ingredient for jams and taste delicious when paired with desserts like peanut cake or as a garnish on lemon bars. Go for a more exquisite dessert option by making macarons.

What is your favorite way to eat raspberries? Do you eat them by themselves or use them in recipes?

Photo: Muffet

Storing Your Fresh Fruit

 

Peaches

One of the best parts about summer is the great fresh fruit that is available. It's fun to take a walk to the farmers' market and see what's available that day. You could try to eat whatever you buy in the next day or two, but usually it's nice to keep some fruit for the next few days to fold into yogurt or blend in smoothies. Here are a few tips for short-term fruit storage. 

For storing the more fragile berries like strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and even blueberries, there are a few things to keep in mind:

- Don't wash or remove the stems from any of the fruits until just before you are ready to eat them or cook with them. - Discard any bruised fruits so they don't spoil the whole bunch. - Line a storage container with paper towel and then arrange the fruits in a single layer. Cover the fruits with another piece of paper towel and then seal the storage container and place in refrigerator. - Strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries should last about three to five days like this, while blueberries can last up to one or two weeks. - When ready to eat, remove from fridge a few hours ahead of time to let fruits reach room temperature.

Cherries are very simple to store. Just remember these simple things:

- Don't wash the cherries before storage. Keep them as dry as possible. - Distribute cherries evenly in a wide shallow bowl. The wider the better so that cherries aren't stacked, which will help avoid bruising. - Place bowl in the coldest part of the fridge and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a tea towel. - Keep cherries away from strong smelling foods so they don't pick up other odors. - Check the cherries every once in a while any remove any spoiled ones to prevent them from ruining the bunch. - In the fridge, they should last four to seven days.

Soft fruits like peaches, apricots, and plums are also very easy to store. And because they should be kept out for a while, they can make great display pieces in your home.

- Do not refrigerate these types of fruits until ripe. It will drastically reduce their flavor. - Leave the fruits out on the counter or in a fruit bowl until they ripen, probably about one to three days. - If you want to speed up the ripening process, you can put the fruits in a paper bag and leave them at room temperature on your counter. - Once the fruits are ripe, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate, at which point they can last three to five days. - Make sure not to stack or pile these soft fruits since they can easily bruise.

For more suggestions on how to save your summer produce quickly, try these tips.

Do you have any other ways to store fresh fruits? Let us know in the comments.

Photo: totalAldo on flickr

Get Fit For Summer: Can Changes In Diet Cure Cancer?

Get Fit For Summer!

It's May at last, which means we're only one month away from summer! Today is the first day of our month-long series: Get Fit for summer! Check back daily for recipes, tips, guides, and how-tos great for getting you on track to summer fitness. Whether it's a guide to healthy foods, a trail mix for a fun hike, or biodegradable picnic supplies for your picnic adventures, there will be a new post on the site every day of May! Enjoy our first of the month below.

Can changes in diet cure cancer? The scientific jury's still out on this complex set of diseases. Yet, certain foods help neutralize toxins and possess anti-inflammatory properties. These "anti-cancer" foods just might help you live a longer, healthier life.

1. Green tea: Filled with a type of antioxidant called "polyphenols," green tea is a great alternative to coffee. As opposed to black teas, green tea is unfermented, which means that those free radical killing polyphenols are left intact. For more coffee alternatives, check out this list.

2. Ginger: A powerful anti-inflammatory, ginger root is a beautiful addition to salads, stir-fries, or your cup of green tea. This stir-fry recipe is a good opportunity to flex your ginger muscles. For ginger in your morning smoothie, make an Avocado Banana Smoothie, which gets a kick from grated ginger.

3. Salmon: With its high omega-3 fatty acid content, salmon is a good anti-inflammatory protein choice. Those fatty acids have also been demonstrated to slow tumor growth, too. Try this grilled salmon sandwich recipe for a cancer-fighting lunch.

4. Berries: Like green tea, berries have lots of polyphenols, including anthocyanidins. With their high content of anthocyanins, blueberries are great choice for smoothies. Try folding them into a hot bowl of oatmeal and top with a drizzle of maple syrup for a morning take on a fruit crumble.

5. Dark chocolate: Look for more than 70% cocoa content-that means you're getting a huge dose of antioxidants in a single square, equivalent to a cup of green tea. One square is a perfect after-meal treat. Or, if you're making a dessert for a party, make an upside-down pear chocolate cake is a healthy way to get your antioxidants.