They’re here at last: British strawberries! All berries – including strawberries – are excellent low-sugar food, which is very rich in nutrients. They are high in vitamin C and K, fibre and – the best thing about them – flavonoids.
Flavonoids are phytonutrients (plant nutrients), which have a wide range of health benefits. The most powerful flavonoids in strawberries are anthocyanins. They are what give them their rich, red colour. Anthocyanins have been found to be protective against inflammation, cancer, and heart disease. The anti-inflammatory properties of these phytonutrients mean that they can impair the activity of the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX). Some painkillers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen, work by blocking COX, but they come with side effects such as intestinal bleeding. Anthocyanins do not cause any side effects.
Strawberries are also a good source of manganese, a mineral that helps protect bones and supports the thyroid gland.
To get the full load of flavonoids from strawberries, they need to be ripe. A perfect strawberry is red, shiny, plump and firm and of course free of mould. I only buy strawberries when they are in season, and then only British ones. Although many other countries grow perfectly good strawberries, I avoid foreign ones because transport means that they have been picked too early, before they have had a chance to develop their nutrients, flavour and fragrance. The more local your strawberries, the fresher they are. If there is a ‘pick your own’ field near you, then that’s what you should take advantage of. Those will be the ripest, yet freshest strawberries you can get.
Unfortunately – like all berries – strawberries are very delicate. They are prone to disease and fungal attack and therefore get heavily sprayed with pesticides and fungizides. Strawberries always end up among the Dirty Dozen. So, if you can find (and afford) organic strawberries, they’re the superior choice. As with most fruit and veg, you can get a much better deal at the farmers market or greengrocer than you will at the supermarket. Those places may also have the tastier varieties, as supermarket fruit is grown for durability and looks rather than flavour.
Thanks to air transport, strawberries are now available all year round, if necessary from far flung countries. For reasons stated above, however, they do not taste all that good, but are very expensive. It really is worth waiting for the British season. Eating seasonally has the added advantage that the food in question – in this case strawberries – becomes more special, because there are times of year where I have to go without.
If you can’t get organic ones, spray them with diluted additive-free soap or commercial produce wash before eating or freezing. Strawberries are great for freezing, but they won’t retain their shape once thawed. They’ll look a bit soggy. I like to use frozen strawberries in shakes and smoothies or blend them with frozen banana for instant dairy- and sugar-free ice cream. If you freeze them straight after purchase, they’ll preserve most of their vitamin C.
Strawberries contain moderate levels of oxalates. If you are prone to kidney stones, it is advisable to limit your consumption. Unfortunately, strawberries are also one of the most common food allergens.
What to do with strawberries?
If you love strawberries, you probably won’t need any recipes and just eat them straight out of the punnet. That’s fine, but here are some ideas, just in case:
- Whip up some fresh cream with a teaspoon of powdered vanilla and dip your strawberries in it.
- Chop into quarters and stir into yoghurt or quark.
- Mix chopped strawberries with cinnamon, lemon juice, and maple syrup and use as a topping for pancakes (e. g. coconut flour pancakes).
- Gently melt some dark chocolate and dip your strawberries in it. Leave to cool and for the chocolate to harden.
- Add sliced strawberries to a mixed green salad.
- For the more adventurous: Blend strawberries with 2 – 3 basil leaves, 2 tbsp of xylitol, Greek yoghurt, and a grinding of black pepper.
My tomorrow’s newsletter will have an easy recipe for a delicious strawberry-based breakfast shake. It’s not too late to subscribe!