People have used the strawberry in various forms for millennia in Europe and the Americas. The first written record of strawberries comes from Ancient Roman texts, which outline the strawberry’s supposed medicinal qualities. Europeans have harvested strawberries from the wild for centuries. By the 14th century, French botanists began to transplant wild strawberries to their gardens. In the 1500s, the popularity of strawberries grew immensely. The fruit appeared in literature and art, and was considered medicinal, not necessarily food. Botanists began to distinguish and name different species of strawberry. Strawberries became a majorly recognized food in the 17th century when strawberry species from Europe were crossbred with varieties native to the Americas. Modern strawberries arose in France in the early 1700s. This occurred when the French imported a variety of strawberries from North America, and a variety from Chile. These two types of berries were crossbred and gave rise to the large, juicy strawberry that we all know and love. Since then, the succulent red fruit has proliferated around the world, becoming a favorite as a dessert or sweet related food. The United States is by far the largest producer of strawberries, producing about 1.3 million tons of strawberries per year, which equates to about 30% of the world’s total strawberry production. Strawberries can vary in size, shape, color and even flavor. These differences are largely a result of the time of the growing season in which they are harvested and the conditions of the growing area. A particular variety of strawberry—long stem strawberries—are carefully hand-cut so they are left with about two inches of stem still intact, making them an ideal choice for applications such as dipping.
Most commonly, strawberries are used in dessert recipes. These include classics like strawberry rhubarb pie, strawberry shortcake, angel food cake, and ice cream. Generally speaking, anything can be elevated with the addition of fresh strawberries. Chocolate dipped strawberries are one of the most decadent, delicious uses for the fruit. Long stem strawberries are wonderful for dipping in chocolate because the stem acts as a handle, allowing more of the berry to be easily dipped. Fresh strawberries can be added to any fruit smoothie or protein shake for a boost of fresh flavor. Strawberries can be used frozen as well. Frozen strawberries are great in smoothies as a flavorful replacement for ice cubes. Strawberries, thanks to their high pectin content, are ideal for making jams and jellies. More adventurous diners might try a steak with a sweet strawberry sauce; sweet and savory flavor combinations are always a hit, even if they are sometimes experimental. For a delicious finger food, try removing the core of strawberries and filling with things like cream cheese, mascarpone or Nutella, or even something more savory like ricotta cheese with a balsamic dressing.
Pick strawberries that are firm and free from significant blemishes. When shopping for long stem strawberries, select ones with vibrant green stems and leaves. Keep fresh strawberries in a bowl or plastic container on a layer of paper towel to help them stay dry. Moisture can cause strawberries to spoil quickly. Strawberries should be stored in the refrigerator where they will stay fresh for two or three days. Thoroughly wash strawberries immediately prior to use.