It's May, which means it's National Strawberry Month! We won't have local berries here in the Midwest until June, but the ones I can find at the grocery store sure are tasty now! To get us all ready for strawberry season, here are 12 Strawberry Desserts for you to try!
Why are In-Season Strawberries the Best?
The first rule in the kitchen is to always choose the best ingredients that you can find! Sure, there are strawberries at the grocery store in January, but they don't smell or taste like strawberries. The outside may be a gorgeous red, but the inside is white and flavorless. The worst!
After being picked, strawberries only ripen on the outside, not on the inside! This means that when they're picked thousands of miles away and shipped to your local grocery store, they were picked before ripening and never had a chance to develop the lovely flavor that you're hoping for!
In-season, local strawberries, like the ones you can pick yourself from a local farm or buy at your local farmer's market, will be the best strawberries you'll ever taste!
When are Strawberries In Season?
Strawberry season varies depending on where you live! Here in the U.S., strawberries start to ripen in late February/early March in places like Florida and California. For me here in the Midwest, this is when I'll start to buy them from the grocery store. Local strawberries don't ripen up here in Michigan until early to mid-June.
How to Choose Strawberries
Here are a few tips for choosing the best strawberries:
- Choose clean, dry strawberries that are plump and firm.
- Strawberries should have a vibrant red color and green, fresh-looking leaves. Good berries will also have a bit of a shine to them.
- You want to avoid any wrinkled, dented, or bruised berries, and definitely pass on berries that have any mold!
- Give them a smell! Good strawberries will smell sweet and delicious. Less smell means less flavor!
- Buy local whenever possible! If your strawberries were shipped from far away, they were picked before they were ripe, and will not be nearly as flavorful as local berries.
- If pesticides are of concern to you, then buy organic when it comes to strawberries! Strawberries are #1 on the Dirty Dozen List, which means that they contain the highest levels of pesticides of any fruit or veggie, even after being washed.
How to Keep Strawberries Fresh
Berries can be an expensive commodity (especially lately)! Spending your hard-earned dollars on beautiful berries only to find them mold-covered when you want to eat them is the woooorst.
I was raised knowing that in order to keep berries fresh, they need to stay dry, so we never washed berries until we were ready to eat them. BUT now I know that if you wash berries in a diluted vinegar solution, you can extend their freshness:
- Dunk. Place the berries in a diluted vinegar bath of 1 cup vinegar to 3 cups of water. This will kill any bacteria and/or mold on your berries!
- Drain. Then rinse the berries so that they don't taste of vinegar.
- Dry. The berries still need to be completely dry! If you have a salad spinner, you can line it with paper towels and send your berries for a spin. Otherwise, use paper towels and pat/air dry your berries.
- Store. Your berries are better off being stored in a larger container than the one you bought them in so that they get more air. Place them in a container with paper towels in the bottom and in-between layers of berries. Then leave the lid partially off so the berries will stay dry.
- Enjoy! Now your berries will be fresh and waiting for you for longer!
How to Freeze Strawberries
If you want to store your strawberries longer-term: freeze them! To freeze your berries:
- Rinse and completely dry your strawberries.
- Remove the stem/leaves from the tops of the berries.
- Place the strawberries cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and place (uncovered) in the freezer until frozen solid, about 24 hours.
- Remove the strawberries from the baking sheet, transfer to a freezer-safe container, and return to the freezer. Your strawberries will keep in the freezer for several months.
Strawberry Dessert Recipes
So now you know all you need to know about choosing and storing your berries--let's get to eating them! Here are 12 Strawberry Desserts to keep celebrating strawberries all season long!