Strawberries, the perfect addition to your 4th of July table! And not just because their color makes them ideal for ‘gram-worthy red, white and blue pies and cakes—they also help us assert our independence as the ancestors to our modern garden strawberry are all-American!
We love strawberries here at The Pickle, and we’re not alone—Americans eat an average of eight pounds of fresh strawberries each per year—ten if you count frozen berries! The Belgians love them so much they built a museum about them! (Anyone up for a field trip?!) In a recent study, more than half of American kids chose strawberries as their favorite fruit. And we say, eat up! They’re a sweet treat that packs nutrition, and are great for your skin to boot!
Ready to buy a pint? Here’s what you need to know!
The Current Pickle
First of all, BUY ORGANIC STRAWBERRIES.
It’s a holiday weekend and you might be skimming through this one, but if there’s one takeaway here, it’s that organic strawberries are the way to go, even if you buy everything else conventional.
Conventional strawberries are pesticide-intensive fruits, and have the most pesticide residue AFTER washing—it’s #1 on the Dirty Dozen list. We usually recommend buying organic, but when it comes to strawberries, it’s especially important: strawberry tests have shown up to 21 different pesticides and breakdown products on a single sample!
The industry is looking to make changes, but for now, spending a little more on organic strawberries means peace of mind for you as you serve your family, plus it results in a reduced toxin load in soils, watersheds, and entire communities, including schools. A bargain, if you ask us!
A few more things to consider when you're on the hunt for a pint or a quart or a flat:
Buy strawberries now! They're in season in most parts of the country from May through July, and that means they're at their most flavorful, least expensive, and lowest carbon footprint since they're not imported from warmer climates. Triple win! 🙌
- Go local. Mass-produced fruits from California may be less expensive than your locally grown berries, but they will also be less flavorful, since to make the journey they are picked at 75% ripeness, and unlike other fruits, strawberries do not continue to ripen once picked. If you can afford it, going local will reward you with better flavor, a lower carbon footprint, and good vibes from supporting your community’s farmers.
- Temper those off-season cravings: for smoothies and desserts—just make sure you choose organic and unsweetened. We love the Stahlbush brand!
- Grow your own! We’ve heard rumblings that even organic-certified produce could carry pesticides and herbicides, so if you wanna be sure your berries are spic-and-span, grow your own! They’re pretty low-maintenance and since the strawberry plant is a perennial, if you plant one now, it will come back next year and the year after that, remaining productive for about five years! Hard to beat that on ROI alone!
What’s the Dillio with Strawberries Not Being Berries?
Technically, a berry has its seeds on the inside. And, to be über technical, strawberries aren’t really a fruit, either, at least not in the sense we’re used to. The flavorful red fleshy part is actually the enlarged receptacle of the flower, and each seed on a strawberry is considered by botanists to be its own separate fruit. Mind. Blown.
More fun facts to take to your 4th of July BBQ:
- The average strawberry is speckled with some 200 seeds—err, fruits.
- Each of those tiny fruits contains a single seed.
- They can either reproduce by seeds or the main strawberry plant “crown” shoots off a “runner” which sprouts “daughter” plants.
- Strawberries are members of the rose family. That probably explains why they smell as sweet as they taste.
- They’re super healthy! Strawberries are believed to help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Ounce for ounce, they pack more Vitamin C than an orange and with fewer calories, plus are excellent sources of B6, K, fiber, folic acid, potassium and amino acids. They also contain high levels of nitrate, which has been shown to increase blood and oxygen flow to the muscles. Research suggests that people who load up on strawberries before exercising have greater endurance and burn more calories. Hello, strawberry energy snack!
- California produces some 90% of the strawberries in the U.S.—about 2 billion pounds per year, which, if laid side by side, would encircle the Earth 15 times!
- Every state in the U.S. grows their own—yep, even Alaska!
When you buy fresh strawberries, wash them and cut the stem away before digging in. If you plan to keep them in the fridge for a few days, wait until before you eat them to clean them since rinsing speeds up spoiling. Or, if you like to go fridge-to-mouth in a hurry, try a vinegar rinse when you get them home. Some people swear by it—let us know how it goes!
The Hot Pickle
We might be biased, but pickling is so hot right now! And did you know this technique can be used on strawberries? They’re delicious in salads, desserts, and even cocktails! Pickling is especially useful—and trendy!—for green or unripe strawberries. If your berries are overripe, get inspired by our friends at TheKitchn, and if you decide to make jam, check out our Jam issue!