Big On Berries

June 13, 2007|By Brad Schleicher | Brad Schleicher,Sun reporter

The Greeks didn't know what they were missing. Strawberries were thought to exist around 234 B.C. and, according to inmamaskitchen.com, the ancient Greek civilization had a taboo against eating anything red, including strawberries.

It's a good thing that times have changed. Now people throughout the world enjoy these little crimson delicacies, especially in late spring and early summer.

According to the Penguin Companion to Food by Alan Davidson, strawberries are "the fruit of plants of the genus Fragaria." The Latin term fraga refers to the distinct fragrance of the berries. An "odd feature" of the strawberry is its structure. The fruit is unlike any other in that its seeds cover the outside of its skin.

There are two types of strawberries, according to Melissa's Great Book of Produce by Cathy Thomas. The traditional strawberry, with a rich red hue, is the most common variety that one would find in a supermarket. Available year-round, this variety peaks during the summer months in the United States.

The other variety, the wild strawberry, is much more rare because it is difficult to cultivate and is in season only from April until June, according to the Penguin Companion to Food. It may be smaller and have a light-red color but it is sweeter than the traditional strawberry.

brad.schleicher@baltsun.com

Strawberry Salsa

Makes about 4 cups

1 English or seedless cucumber, finely chopped

1 green onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon cilantro, cut into strips

1 yellow pepper, diced

3 to 4 tablespoons seasoned rice-wine vinegar

2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and diced small

Mix cucumber, green onion, cilantro, yellow pepper and vinegar. Cover and chill at least 1 hour. Just before serving, add strawberries.

From the California Strawberry Commission, calstrawberry.com

Per tablespoon: 2 calories, 0 grams protein, 0 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 1 gram carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 0 milligrams sodium

GETTING THE MOST FROM YOUR STRAWBERRIES

BUYING

"Some large berries can taste good, but giant supermarket berries do not," according to the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Companion. Instead, shop for smaller strawberries with "a rich, glossy red color" and "shiny green leaves" at a farmers' market, the book says.

STORING

Sort through all of your strawberries and discard the soft or mushy ones, says whatscookingamerica.net. Then store the firm berries in an uncovered colander in a refrigerator. "This allows the cold air to circulate around them," the Web site says.

COOKING

"Strawberries can be used in just about any dessert," says Joseph Poupon, executive pastry chef of Patisserie Poupon in downtown Baltimore. Poupon suggests making a napoleon by stacking sliced strawberries with puff pastry and sweet pastry cream.

But strawberries can be used for more than desserts. Thomas Pons, another pastry chef at Patisserie Poupon, suggests using sliced strawberries to spruce up an omelet or as part of a mesclun-greens salad with crab meat, corn and a balsamic vinaigrette. Strawberries also can add a note of sweetness to salsa.

[Brad Schleicher]

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