Enter the Strawberry
When strawberries are in season, no one will blame you for dropping everything to get to the nearest fruit stand – whether it’s an expanse that covers acres, or just a girl with a glass jar and a folding table. Cartons bursting with shiny crimson-colored fruit are all you need to start feeling like summer is truly here.
Strawberries are beloved for their sweet delicious flavor, and when they are picked fresh from the field, there is nothing like them. They are, like wild blueberries, a strong contender for a powerful antioxidant food. They are also associated with exciting new brain health studies that show that they, along with blueberries, hold big promise under their colorful skin in the prevention of age-related brain deterioration, including Alzheimer’s.
Low in calories, strawberries are high in vitamin C, folate, potassium and manganese. Their anti-inflammatory properties that help preserve brain health also fight certain cancers, provide cardiovascular support, help regulate blood sugar and decrease risk of type 2 diabetes. PickYourOwn.org even tells us that strawberry juice can serve as a salve for feverish patients and cool a sunburn!
Most of all, strawberries are a fun, versatile ingredient that thrill the palate in everything from pies to salsas. So open the door to summer and surrender to this ruby red fruit. It’s time to indulge in all things strawberry.
Fields & Festivals Devoted to Strawberries
Locals will tell you, Maxwell’s Strawberry Farm is a goldmine for growing and picking strawberries in Southern Maine. Located in the Two Lights area of Cape Elizabeth, they invite pickers to pick to their heart’s content for $2.39/pound. Be sure to call the Strawberry Hotline (207-799-3383) beforehand to make sure the fields are not closed for ripening.
To make the most of the season, Maxwell’s is host to the 2012 Strawberry Festival which takes place Saturday, June 30th. It’s real kicks-off is Friday evening, though, with a Lobsterbake & Pig Roast Fund Raiser. The next day at the festival, visitors will encounter strawberry treats, music, a wide range of artisans and vendors, and plenty of activities for kids, including tractor rides, and hot air balloon rides.
Or, head south on Saturday to South Berwick (it’s right on the New Hampshire border) to the annual South Berwick Strawberry Festival where the usual shenanigans of this self-described small town country event ensues, including entertainment, food, artisans, and plenty of strawberry shortcakes.
Strawberry Recipes to Kick Off the Season
It’s no crime to eat your berries straight from the carton, but using them in extraordinary recipes may be what they were created for. Just in the nick of time, The Portland Press Herald offers recipes for the season from local Maine culinary experts, including Strawberry Crepe Cake from Erin Lynch, kitchen manager of Rosemont Market & Bakery, and Strawberry and Finger Banana Fritters, a wow of a dish, compliments of Chef Carmen Gonzalez of the Danforth Inn.
Southern Living has has in-season recipes like Strawberry-Fruit Toss with Cornmeal Shortcakes, and Strawberry-Turkey-Brie Panini to put strawberries to work in something other than dessert. Also in keeping with the season, Cooking Light is a mouth-watering resource for all things strawberry, among them Strawberry Granita and Lavender-Scented Strawberries with Honey Cream. (They have layer cake, too.)
Finally, Food52.com, where home cooks spread their wings, has a Strawberry Salad that is a stunner for summer. It’s a combination of strawberries, balsamic vinegar and greens; making it exclusively from farmer’s market loot is a must. The salad is a runner-up to the grand prize winner, the utmost in summer desserts, Strawberries with Lavender Biscuits. Tender biscuits with delightful undertones of lavender separate this lovely interpretation of the traditional shortcake from the pack.
One of the best things about strawberries is their palate-pleasing pairing with wild blueberries. Together, these berries offer a complex flavor with surprising sweetness and tang, and an antioxidant burst that pumps up health benefits to the max.
“When you combine different antioxidant foods, you get synergy,” says Dr. Dan Nadeau, Medical Director for Diabetes and Endocrinology Associates of York Hospital and co-author of The Color Code. Synergy refers to combining healthy foods in a way that results in an even bigger benefit to health than the two would have apart. For example, combining wild blueberries and walnuts or strawberries can increase the impact they have when eaten separately, creating a burst of protection when it comes to our bodies.
Synergistic dishes for strawberry season that are high in nutrition and bursting with color include Confessions of and Overworked Mom’s Strawberry Blueberry Crumble Pie. Martha Stewart has her say with a Red and White Blueberry Trifle, a synergistic recipe that is perfect for the 4th of July.
Find a “pick your own” farm in Maine, or close by in New Brunswick.