Thursday, June 9, 2011

Berry Good For You: Get Excited About Local Strawberries!

They're just about here. Yes, they're a bit late this year, but they're that much sweeter as a result -- strawberry season in Ontario is finally upon us.

I couldn't be happier about this news because I have been buying individually quick frozen (IQF) strawberries for the past few months. In contrast to 'fresh' produce that comes from 3,000 miles away which is picked before it has fully ripened, IQF produce is picked when it is ripe and then it is flash frozen to maintain the integrity of the product. I found that that any strawberries that I could find fresh in a clam shell at the store were not only overpriced, but they were also flavourless and colourless on the inside. A total rip-off. And then something amazing happened.

A friend of mine brought some fresh strawberries over and I tasted one - I was absolutely amazed at how sweet and juicy they were! What a difference! After a long winter, I couldn't be happier that it is finally strawberry season and I can get fresh, local Ontario strawberries Heck, I can go strawberry picking!

The health benefits of strawberries, like other berries, are many. Strawberries are bursting with vitamin C and plenty of antioxidants to help fight against cancers, inflammation and diseases related to aging. They've also got a little calcium, magnesium and potassium inside. These minerals are key components of the DASH diet, which has been shown to be effective not only in reducing blood pressure, but also for weight loss and management. Since they are ridiculously low in calories due to their high water and fibre content, strawberries are a great addition to anyone's diet to help them slim down for the summer. Some new research even suggests that certain compounds in strawberries help you curb your hunger and stimulate your metabolism.

Eaten on their own, they are absolutely gorgeous, but there are hundreds of simple recipes you can whip up with these gems. Why not treat yourself to a berry-decorated mimosa or bellini on a hot summer day, or maybe you're feeling adventurous and want to bake a classic strawberry shortcake or a strawberry tiramisu? Slice them into your salad and you've just kicked it up 5 notches!

I strongly recommend getting your hands on some fresh, local strawberries ASAP. Whatever we have been forced to settle for in the previous months simply pales in comparison to the experience of enjoying a perfectly ripe, luscious red strawberry!