Selecting the Best Strawberries
Naturally the best strawberries are the ones you pick yourself or buy from your local strawberry fields. Excessive handling and time will cause berries to deteriorate. A fresh-picked strawberry has a wonderful flavor and fragrance that you will not find in your local grocery store. In the stores, always choose locally grown strawberries during the harvesting season (they are sweeter and juicier than those that are bred for shipment). Remember, your local strawberry season only lasts 3 to 4 weeks.
When purchasing strawberries, always choose the plumpest and most fragrant berries. They should be red and as fully ripe as possible. High quality strawberries are plump, firm and well rounded with a natural shine and rich red color free from white, green, or hard tips. Green or white tipped ones will have little flavor since they have not fully ripened. Strawberries will not ripen further after being picked. You can tell a good berry by its brilliant color and by its sheen. The fresher they are the more shine. Strawberries become dull and dark when they are overripe
Berries should be dry and clean; usually medium to small berries have better eating quality than large ones. Check to be sure unripe berries are not buried beneath a ripe layer on top because strawberries do not ripen after being picked. Their caps (hulls) should be bright green and fresh looking. Strawberries without caps should not be purchased as they may be overripe and not good quality.
In the grocery store, check the berry box. They will tell your nose of mildew and mold, which sour berries. Avoid boxes of strawberries that are stained, leaking, or showing signs of mold or bruises. Stains indicate overripe berries losing their juice. Try to see the bottom layer to be sure the same quality is throughout. Mold on berries spreads quickly. Never leave a moldy berry next to a good one.
Look for strawberries that are well shaped and filled out. The large ones may not be the best buy as it takes fewer of them to fill a container. It is best to buy by weight if possible. Smaller, locally grown fruit during the season will be the freshest and most flavorful. Large berries may be hollow inside and too small a berry may have a hard seedy bottom. So look for a happy medium. The stern that is well attached and green is also a good sign of a tasty fruit. Wilted stems indicate tired berries.
Use strawberries as soon as possible after picking or purchasing to ensure the best flavor and appearance as well as the highest nutritional value.
Freezing is the best method of preserving strawberries for meals throughout the year. Canning causes strawberries to fade, float, and become mushy. These berries can, however, be made into excellent sweet spreads. Strawberries dried in the form of fruit leather make an excellent, flavorful snack or lunch bag treat.