Strawberries are a small plant of the Rose (Rosacea) family that is well adapted to North America and grows in all provinces either wild or cultivated. Strawberries grow on vines close to the ground where the plump fruits turn bright red when ripe.
Because of advancements in plant breeding and growing techniques, the traditional window for fresh strawberries has expanded from June/July to May – October. This means Canadians can enjoy fresh nutritious strawberries all summer and into the fall. The new day-neutral, or everbearing, strawberry varieties are just as colourful and delicious as their traditional June-bearing counterparts.
How to Buy:
Strawberries usually come in open trays or plastic clam shells with good ventilation to reduce moisture buildup. Look for bright or deep coloured berries that are plump and firm. Avoid signs of mold or soft spots and white or green berries.
How to Store:
Store strawberries unwashed and in their original packaging or another breathable container. Strawberries only keep in the fridge for 2 – 3 days but are best if consumed within 24 hours after buying. Remove any soft or damaged berries immediately to reduce the chance of mold spoiling the whole package. Wash in cool water and remove tops before serving.
Frozen strawberries make great additions to smoothies and baking. Place unwashed berries (whole or sliced) in the freezer in a single layer on a baking sheet until frozen firm (4 – 6 hours), then transfer to a sealable container or freezer bag and keep for up to 12 months. Rinse before eating.
How to Prepare:
Fresh strawberries make a nutritious light snack, but this versatile berry lends itself to endless preparations. From gelato to pound cake, preserves to salads, the strawberry is a flavourful addition to your table. Even disappointingly firm or flavourless strawberries come alive in baking and compotes. Try these recipes:
- Strawberry Bonanza
- Strawberry Cheesecake & Ice Cream Pie
- Strawberry Cupcakes
- White Fish with Fresh-Cut Strawberry Salsa
Strawberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C, potassium and fibre.
How They Are Grown:
Although strawberry seeds cover the outer surface of their skin, unlike most berries, they don’t reproduce by these seeds. Instead, the low vine-like plant sends out tendrils called runners that send down roots and develop into new, fruit-bearing plants. These new plants can be dug up and transplanted to populate new strawberry fields. It is by this method that most commercial strawberry farms source their new plants each year from a strawberry nursery.
Everbearing strawberries are grown in long rows on raised beds with drip irrigation. The rows are made with mulch that is covered in tight plastic sheets and the appropriate amount of water is trickled right onto the roots. This plastic layer helps manage ground temperature, reduces weeds, keeps the roots free of excess water and the berries cleaner as they grow. The plant roots are pushed through the plastic by hand.
June-bearing varieties are planted directly into the ground in long rows by machines along with drip irrigation lines to assist in watering.
All strawberries are picked by hand and one field can be picked multiple times to collect the full crop as the berries ripen at different stages. They are packaged directly in the field before being cooled and transported on refrigerated trucks to the grocery store.
Fun Fact: During the winter and outside the peak Canadian season, 25% of the US strawberries on Canadian grocery shelves started as seedlings in Canadian strawberry nurseries.
Fun Fact: A lot of the strawberry’s flavour comes from the amount of sunlight during the fruiting time. The more sunlight that shines on the berries while they’re growing, the sweeter they will be. If cloudy weather dominates the growing season, the berries won’t be as flavorful.
Fun Fact: Some farmers like this one in Quebec grow, harvest and sell strawberry plants:
Canadian field crop is available: May – October