By Vicky Babcock
In our state, we look to the robin for the early announcement of Spring. These brave, hardy birds often appear when the snow is still on the ground. They bring us hope and a promise that winter will soon loose its grip and warmer days are ahead—a promise that the earth will again yield new growth. For the Seneca Indians, the strawberry is linked with Spring and rebirth, as it is the first fruit to ripen in the season. The Seneca believe that strawberries grow along the path to the heavens and that strawberries bring good health as well.
Modern science supports this belief, as studies have shown several benefits to the consumption of the fruit. Among the findings: eating the berries can help prevent memory loss and reduce heart disease and cancer, aid to resist infectious diseases and counter inflammation. Components of the berry aid in absorbing calcium and contribute to healthy bone structure. One test concluded that subjects who ate nitrate rich foods such as strawberries before exercise burned, on average, about 100 more calories than others who did not. This may be because consumption of nitrate rich foods can increase the blood flow to muscles by as much as seven percent, increasing oxygen and making it easier to exercise.
The goddess Venus was said to have cried strawberry tears upon the death of Adonis. The association with the goddess of love probably arises from its heart shape and red color. It is said that if one splits a double strawberry in half and shares this with someone of the opposite sex, love will grow between them. Strawberries were considered an aphrodisiac in France and a soup made from the fruit was served to newlyweds.
The Brits used crushed strawberries and the juices to reduce sunburn and mild blemishes and, in parts of Europe, the fruit is considered sacred to the Virgin Mary. The Romans considered the fruit a cure-all—it was believed to relieve depression and to cure inflammations, fevers, throat infections, kidney stones, gout, fainting spells and diseases of the blood, liver and spleen. It was also used to mask halitosis.
The strawberry is a member of the rose family. It is the only fruit whose seeds are on the outside. An average strawberry contains approximately 200 seeds. It is low calorie, containing about 45 calories per cup. Its fresh, tart/sweet flavor makes it a favorite to many and its nutritional value makes it a favorite to moms and health providers.
Look for strawberries from mid May to mid to late June. Check local farmers markets or food markets that cater to local produce for the freshest berries. Enjoy these treats as they are for a guilt-free snack. Toss them into salads or cereals or muffins. Or try out our recipe for a refreshing summer drink. Any way you slice them, you can’t go wrong with strawberries. Bon Appetite!
Strawberry Lemonade Smoothie
1 large can frozen lemonade
1 16-ounce tub frozen strawberries in syrup
Fresh strawberries (about 2 cups), rinsed, caps removed
1 cup vanilla or strawberry yogurt
1 ½ cups water
Ice (about 8-12 cubes)
Sugar to taste
Blend first five ingredients. If mixture is too strong, add additional water. Add sugar to taste. Add ice and process until desired consistency.