Strawberries – Growing, Buying, Eating, Health Benefits

Nothing screams spring to me like when I start seeing “local” strawberries in the grocery store.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean local like from my state of Georgia, I mean local as in Florida as opposed to California or Mexico.  I start dreaming of ripe, sweet, delicious strawberries topped with homemade whipped cream or homemade strawberry ice cream.

Grow Some Strawberries

As a kid, I can remember having strawberry plants in our front yard and I have a vague recollection of them growing like a weed, maybe I’m dreaming this.  Every spring, I have a renewed interest in gardening and growing my own berries.  How many of us dream of growing pounds and pounds of ripe, delicious berries only to find that our thumb isn’t quite as green as we had envisioned?  Every year I give it a shot but so far, I’ve not been successful in growing any more than about 5 small berries.  From my window, I watch them grow and ripen but before I can pick them, the birds’ peck holes in them.

There’s so much to know, what type of plant to get, where to plant it, when to plant it, etc.  In Georgia, it is recommended to plant them in fall or early spring, in dry soil.  Well, this year, that’s pretty much a crapshoot in my neck of the woods.  We haven’t been able to go more than 4 days without rain or so it seems.  By the time I feel it’s ok to plant them, it could be June!  Ready to plant strawberries but need a little help or some inspiration?  My Growing Fruit Board on Pinterest is chockfull of great information from people who actually have a green thumb, unlike me.

Farmers market sign in field of grass

Best Places to Buy

If you’re like me and your thumb is not so green, don’t worry, you’ve got options other than the grocery store.  It always seems to me the berries that come from small farms taste significantly better than those that are not.  So if you don’t have luck growing your own or just don’t want to mess with it, why not try a farmer’s market, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or a pick your own farm?  My top choice is pick your own.  Going to the strawberry fields and seeing all those bright red strawberries just makes me so happy.  When my kids were younger, we would go several times during the growing season and the kids loved it.  Now that they are older, I have a much harder time convincing them but I still like to go by myself.  I also love going to farmer’s markets and seeing all the yummy produce that is grown, practically in my backyard.  There’s something about being there that inspires me to want to eat healthier.  That feeling goes away probably 20 minutes after I get home but maybe one of these day’s it’ll stick.

Organic vs. Conventional

Year after year, strawberries show up on the EWG’s (Environmental Working Group) Dirty Dozen list so that tells me we should be buying organic berries whenever possible.  After doing a little research, it turns out all strawberries start life out the same, in nursery soil that is pumped with fumigants to eradicate pests and diseases.  That doesn’t mean they journey through life the same way.  It is possible for berries to grow organically and without harmful pesticides.  Thankfully for the average consumer (that’s us!), those icky chemicals that the “starts” started life out with are only used to treat the soil and not the plants so they shouldn’t be a problem in the fruit you are eating.  I suppose one could argue if the soil was “contaminated” there’s no guarantee that there isn’t residual in the fruit but at some point, you’ve just got to be ok with it! The real problem is for the people that live in the areas surrounding the nurseries.  They are the folks that will suffer the greatest health effects.  From what I’ve learned, becoming certified organic is a very costly and time-intensive process that small farms just don’t have the resources for, however, many follow organic growing practices. The beauty of farmer’s markets, CSA’s and pick your own farms is you can actually talk to the farmer growing your fruit to find out what their growing practices are.

Favorite Way to Eat

After my first trip to the pick your own strawberry farm with my kids, we got home and I had no idea what to do with all the berries.  I think we had 2 or 3 gallon size buckets and as much as we all like strawberries, I knew they wouldn’t stay fresh forever.  I’m pretty sure we made some pancakes and topped them with strawberries, ate some with fresh whipped cream, ate many by themselves, made a strawberry cake but then I found a recipe for ice cream.  It was ABSOLUTELY DIVINE.  It calls for milk and heavy cream.  You can’t go low cal here, in my opinion, it’s gotta be whole milk and heavy cream.  Trust me on this.  I like to try new things so I need to hit the pick your own farm pretty hard this year.  My collection of strawberry recipes is continually growing.

Strawberries and your Health

No matter if you grow your own or buy strawberries, there’s no denying they are good for you, unless you are allergic in which case you should probably stay away.

Strawberries are rich in:

  • Vitamin C
  • Manganese
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Potassium
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Antioxidants

infographic listing 6 health benefits of strawberries

If you grow your own strawberries, I’d love to hear your secrets!  Do you visit pick your own farms?  What are your favorite recipes to use up all those strawberries?  Let me know in the comments below.

Make it a green day!

~ Heather

Sources:

Even Organic Strawberries Are Grown With Dangerous Pesticides

The Benefits of Berries to the Brain

Strawberry Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits. & Recipes

 

strawberry plant, picked strawberries, cut up strawberries over ice cream

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