When winter starts to wane and before summer really arrives, fruit stalls on the streets and fruit aisles in the supermarkets are adorned with strawberries. Like bright red jewels, they look as irresistible in 1.2kg cardboard boxes as they do in heaps and piles on carts or in wicker baskets slung across the vendors’ shoulders
Known as nutrition powerhouses, strawberries can bolster your body&’s health in innumerable ways from combating inflammation and controlling diabetes, to protecting cognitive function and improving heart health. According to an in vitro cell study, strawberry leaf extract used on leukemia cells showed significant cancer-killing activity, while freeze-dried strawberries slowed the growth of two varieties of cervical cancer cells grown in culture.
For those of us less initiated with medical mumbo, strawberries are packed with vitamin C, manganese and fibre and qualify as a super food due to their antioxidant quality.
Now that it is decided that while the season lasts, strawberries will be totally allowed to invade all our meals and menus (like mangos do in the mango season) with strawberry pancakes or strawberry jam on toast for breakfast, strawberry juice after a workout, strawberry salad for lunch and strawberry mousse or ice cream for dessert — we must know how to be able to buy the best strawberries because all strawberries look perfect.
Quite simply you could taste them for sweetness but how many places will allow you to taste them? Look for a deep red colour which is another indicator of flavour, but strawberries actually continue to redden after being picked, even though they do not continue to get sweeter, so you could get a little disappointed if your brightly coloured strawberries turn out to be not so sweet.
For a strawberry, you want a fragrant smell together with enough sweetness. For that combo, the berry has to be ripe enough. If it was picked while under-ripe, it won’t smell good enough and may also be hard and sour. A strawberry picked while under-ripe will be white or even slightly greenish at the top.Apparently, smell is the most reliable criterion for practically any fruit and even more so for strawberries. So pick up the berries and give them a good sniff. Sweet, ripe strawberries will have a great strawberry scent to them, just like ripe peaches, plums, pears and other fruits do when they’re at their peak.
If it was picked long ago and is not fresh any more, it will have lost the more volatile components of its fragrance. So only a ripe, fresh strawberry will smell great.
If you smell the slightest hint of mould, fermentation or foulness, reject them because they may not keep even one night.
Don’t ever go by shape. There are ugly, lumpy strawberries of a lighter, slightly orange colour which could be sweet or the picture perfect ones can be hard and dry, without much aroma.
Older or over ripened strawberries look duller and have less sheen. Sometimes smaller strawberries have more flavour.
A bit of white at the top doesn’t mean anything, as long as there is not too much, and as long as there is no white in the bottom half, the strawberry is probably okay.
So the next time you go strawberry shopping, pretend you’re a dog and enjoy sniffing.