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Strawberries: A Healthy Fruity Favorite

Written by kumaran   // June 3, 2011   // Comments Off

Bowl of Strawberries

Strawberry milkshakes.  Strawberry jam.  Strawberry ice cream.  Strawberry pie.  Who doesn’t love the sweet, tart, and unmistakable taste of strawberries?  Strawberries are cultivated worldwide, so the answer is probably not many people.

They are beautiful, bright red, and smell heavenly.  They are often eaten fresh, or in one of the treats listed above; in fact, their flavor is also reproduced and used in commercial food products.

An accessory fruit, derived from the plant’s receptacle instead of the ovaries, strawberries were first grown in France in the year 1740.  They were really a hybrid of two different types of strawberry, a cross between the Fragaria Virginiana of North America (famous for its flavor) and the Fragaria Chiloensis from Chile and Argentine (famous for its size).  Now, growers produce the woodland strawberry, first grown in the early seventeenth century.

Strawberries vary across color, size, flavor, ripening season, likelihood of succumbing to disease, and shape.  Often the foliage of the plants is different as well.  Growing methods vary as well, and cultivators use either the plasticulture method or the method of matted rows.  Sometimes, in the off-season, strawberries are grown in greenhouses.  Most growers use the plasticulture system to grow their strawberries.

Raised beds are formed and then covered in plastic after being fumigated.  The plants are put through holes, and then irrigation tubes are placed under the plastic.  The plastic prevents weeds from growing around the plant beds.  At harvest time, the plastic is taken away.  This system requires a long growing season, and invites high costs due to making and plastic coating the mounds.  In colder climates, it is more common for growers to use the method of matted rows.  It requires less maintenance and costs less to implement, but yields fewer fruit.

Another method of growing strawberries uses a compost sock, which gives strawberries with higher ORAC, or oxygen radical absorbance capacity, flavonoids, glucose, anthocyanins, fructose, malic acid, sucrose, and citric acid than fruit grown through other methods.  Strawberries can also be grown by seed, but it’s not a widely used method in the commercial market.  Seeds can be collected from the fruit themselves. Many people grow them at home in pots.

Strawberries are typically harvested and cleaned in the traditional way.  Strawberries must be harvested by hand.  The fleshy fruit are quite delicate, and machine processing would simply smash them.  The packing and grading of the fruit happens in the field.  Water streams and bumping, shaking conveyor belts wash the fruit as they move through processing.

The United States produces the majority of the world strawberry market, followed by Spain and Turkey.
Many pests attack strawberries, including aphids, strawberry sap beetles, fruit flies, slugs, chafers, moths, strawberry root weevils, strawberry crown moths, strawberry thrips, and mites.  Additionally, strawberries are not immune to diseases, and succumb to gray mold, leaf spot, rhizopus rot, leaf blight, verticillium wilt, red stele, black root rot, powdery mildew, nematodes, and slime molds.  A windy area can prevent a fungus from growing.

In addition to being easy to cultivate, strawberries are also very nutritious fruit.  They are a great source of flavonoids and vitamin C, and have few calories.  Strawberries are an excellent source of fiber, potassium, and calcium.  They also have beauty benefits; it is rumored that rubbing raw strawberries over your teeth will actually whiten them!

Sadly, some people are allergic to strawberries. The most common allergy is through oral consumption, but may also occur in the form of hives or breathing problems.  For those with the allergy, white-fruited strawberries may be the answer.  They lack the protein necessary for normal ripening, and so do not turn red.  They are almost completely allergen-free!

Hopefully, everyone, even those with allergies, enjoy strawberries when they can.  They are delicious, nutritious, and employ benefits for the body, both inside and out.

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