Here in the Hudson Valley, seasonal strawberries are a June event. I just picked up my first box along with some spinach, little green peas in the pod, and a basil plant for the balcony.
Local strawberries are more flavorful that commodity berries so I’ve become a confirmed seasonal strawberry eater. Local seasonal berries vary from region to region and my preference is always those berries bred for flavor and sweetness and aroma. Commodity crops are bred for year round “shipability” and shelf stability, but if you’re used to commodity berries, you may not agree with me because we all tend to prefer what we’re used to.
HEALTHY AS PER LABELED SERVING
Looking at the nutrition label, strawberries don’t really stand out as a superfood or nutritional powerhouse. No red needed for nutrients to discourage and just a few nutrients listed in green to encourage.
Good Source Dietary Fiber. Fiber to Carbohydrate Ratio is favorable. 1g PROTEIN.
For the last decade, we’ve been told to avoid foods with more that 5 ingredients listed on the label. As per a Guardian article from 2006 that I tracked down, an artificial strawberry flavor could have as many as 49 ingredients. Imagine a strawberry flavored ice pop made with water, some high fructose corn syrup, some apple juice, citric acid, some artificial strawberry flavor along with some natural flavor, a preservative or two to inhibit bacterial growth, and some nice bright strawberry red food color. Even the most ambitious count would probably not reach 100.
A strawberry is normally counted as one ingredient. But what if we consider the chemical components in a whole strawberry?
I discovered that the ingredient list for the chemical matrix of a strawberry would include many hundreds of nutrients, far more than the mere 100 for the ice pop. And these bioactive compounds some with distinctly chemical sounding names. Ascorbic Acid and β-carotene. Anthocyanins. Flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol. Phenolic compounds like pyrogallol, gallic, catechol, chlorogenic, ellagic acid. Volatile compounds like aldehydes, terpenes, and furanones. I’m not even sure the researches have identified all the chemical components that make up the strawberry matrix yet.
So after spending a couple of hours spinning my head around “what’s in a strawberry” I’m beginning to think maybe we got it all wrong. I’m thinking, maybe really healthy food is actually more chemical complex than manufactured food.
My seasonal strawberries, even those commodity berries, are healthier because of the chemical complexity.