Latin name: Fragaria spp.
Other names: fraises des bois
Uses: fruit, confections, alcohol
What are strawberries?
Strawberries are the world’s favorite berry. They grow on low plants that spread by sending out runners that take root. Domestic strawberries are easily found at markets; wild types are much smaller and have a more intense flavor. Though they technically aren’t even a real berry — they’re an aggregate accessory fruit and the “seeds” are the actual fruits — only a pedant (or a botanist) would deny strawberry’s rightful place in the berry bowl.
Why are strawberries healthy?
The beloved strawberry is high in antioxidants, vitamins A and C, and fiber. Research shows that the unique combination of phytonutrients in strawberries plays a role in cancer protection, diabetes prevention, blood sugar control, and cardiovascular health. It is important to buy organic strawberries, as they are one of the most chemically sprayed of all foods.
What do strawberries taste like?
A ripe strawberry is a treat: a transcendent moment of sweetness and umami, bright acidity, and a slightly rosy, almost tropical fragrance. Strawberries’ flavor and aroma come from an organic compound called furaneol (aka strawberry furanone, a chemical widely used in the perfume and flavor industries). The main flavors associated with this chemical — burnt sugar, caramel, cotton candy, and honey — shed some light on strawberries’ popularity, but the aroma is also derived in part by the fact that they are a member of the rose family.
How do I use strawberries?
You can certainly glacé them to your little heart’s content, but honestly there is no better way to eat strawberries than straight up. Serve with cake and whipped mascarpone as a strawberry shortcake, drizzle with a balsamic reduction, or add to salads with nuts and crumbly white cheeses. For a modern spin on a strawberry shortcake, pulverize freeze-dried strawberries and sprinkle this intense flavor-bomb powder onto white chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies.
What do strawberries pair well with?
You probably know how well strawberries pair with rhubarb, and dairy (like ice cream), and other dessert-facing flavors like vanilla, almond, and Grand Marnier. But they also love black pepper, wine, and olive oil, and in Italy they’re often served with a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar.
Where do strawberries grow?
People have been growing them in their home gardens since the 1300s, but strawberries — consisting of more than twenty species — grow throughout the world’s temperate regions. In North America, the plants grow in forests, subalpine mountainous areas, and on the coast. The flavor of wild strawberries is unrivaled, though breeding efforts have created varieties approximating the balance of sweetness and acidity in a more affordably-grown cash crop.
How to buy strawberries:
You can find them in supermarkets year round, but there's no comparison to strawberries from a local (preferably organic) farm when they're in season.
Fun strawberry fact:
The sublime flavor of a perfectly ripe strawberry is best summarized by William Butler, the 17th-century English writer: "Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did."