Michigan Fresh Garden: Strawberries packed with vitamin C, fiber and lots more – Midland Daily News
If conditions are favorable, strawberries are available between June and July. Varieties that grow well in Michigan include Guardian, Surecrop, Midway, Red Chief, and Sparkle. Gilbert and Ozark Beauty are excellent for freezing, while Red Chief and Guardian are recommended varieties for preserves. Raritan, Delite, Holiday, Earliglow and Scarlet varieties are additional varieties that also grow well in Michigan.
Michigan State University Extension recommends selecting or picking medium-sized berries that are firm, plump and deep red in color, once picked they will not ripen further. Strawberries are quick to perish and must be treated with care once harvested. Avoid fruit that is bruised, damaged or moldy. Store berries in a box with holes and cover with plastic wrap or put in a plastic bag with holes. Research shows two days as maximum for refrigerator storage before vitamins begin to decrease and the berries will begin to break down. It is recommended to store strawberries in refrigeration at temperatures below 40°F degrees.
Strawberries are packed with vitamin C, fiber, and have high levels of antioxidants; they are good sources of manganese and potassium as well. One serving (8 large berries count as a one cup serving) provides more vitamin C than an orange. This heart shaped berry is not only good for our hearts, indicating an association in decreased cardiovascular disease but the phytochemicals present in the berries also have anti-inflammatory properties.
In addition to being consumed fresh, strawberries can be frozen, made into preserves, jam or jelly, syrup, as well as dried, used in salads, and flavorings in favorite dairy products such as smoothies, milk shakes and ice cream.
Freezing berries involves selecting fresh, ripe berries. Wash them in cold water but do not soak. Remove caps and drain well. There are several options for freezing: syrup pack method, sugar pack method, unsweetened pack method and tray freezing (dry pack). The sugar and syrup pack methods will produce better quality frozen strawberries than packing berries without sweetening.
• Syrup pack method: Pack berries into containers and cover with cold 50 percent syrup (1 part water to 1 part sugar), leaving ½ inch headspace. Seal, label, date and freeze the berries.
• Sugar Pack method: Add 1 part sugar to 6 parts strawberries, and mix thoroughly. Put into containers, leaving ½ inch headspace. Seal, label, date and freeze the berries.
• Unsweetened pack method: Pack into containers, leaving ½ inch headspace. To ensure better color, cover with water containing 1 teaspoon ascorbic acid to each quart of water. Seal, label and freeze the berries.
• Tray freezing (dry pack) method: Slice berries into ¼ inch slices, spread onto cookie sheet in single layer, place in freezer. Once frozen, place strawberries into freezer bags, seal, label and date the frozen berries. This method works nicely for pre-packaging berries for smoothies.