Is there anything better than a soft, juicy, locally grown strawberry picked at the peak of ripeness? The difference between local varieties and the hard, grown for transport and to last in a grocery store, is huge. In the Northwest, local strawberries are at the farmer’s markets in early June. It’s a short window and you have to be on top of things or you’ll miss it. But it’s soooo worth marking your calendar and making the trip because these little jewels are not only exquisitely delicious, they are packed with cancer-fighting goodness. And since March is National Nutrition Month, I thought I’d focus on cancer-fighting foods and how to prepare them.
The whole berry family is a nutritional powerhouse—strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, acai, and goji berries being among the top in this category. These red/purple gems have powerful cancer fighting abilities. Packed with cancer fighting anti-oxidants, these superfoods also contain many other anticancer compounds like anthocyanins and ellagic acid (source).
They’re pretty low in sugar as far as fruits go so I eat them without worry of the glycemic hit to my system. Beware of added sugar if you purchase berry flavored products like jam, yogurt or juices. These usually have quite a bit of sugar added to offset the tart-sweet level natural to berries.
One very important rule to follow is to ALWAYS buy organic berries. Because berries are so porous and their flesh so permeable, pesticides get absorbed into the fruit and cannot be washed off. You will be eating that poison. Pay the extra buck or two for organic berries—your health is worth it.
Caring for berries is another area that challenges people. Does it seem like they go moldy the day after you’ve purchased them? This can be a problem, especially if you buy organic. I’ve read a few articles that say to rinse briefly in a diluted solution of water and vinegar to kill any mold spores on the surface of the berries and they will last longer. I find that rinsing berries actually has them spoil faster so this is a balancing act. I like the idea of killing mold spores but I also like to rinse my berries right before I eat them. Try these different methods and let me know what works for you!
Since it’s not quite berry season, I have three recipes for you, one for now using frozen berries, and two for later when your fresh local berries are in season.
Blueberry & Strawberry Dreams Smoothie
1 cup coconut milk, almond milk or hemp milk
1 cup frozen organic blueberries
½ cup frozen organic strawberries
½ teaspoon lime juice
½ teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons ground flax seed and/or ground chia seed
Blend all ingredients in a high-powered blender and enjoy!
Berry Breakfast Parfait
¼ cup each of fresh strawberries (sliced), blueberries and raspberries
½ cup non-dairy yogurt like almond milk or coconut milk
1 Tablespoon chia seeds
1 Tablespoon hemp seeds
1 Tablespoon finely chopped raw almonds or toasted almond slivers
In a tall glass, place ⅓ of the berry mixture in the bottom. Add a layer of half of the yogurt, alternating layers with a layer of berries and yogurt, ending with berries on top. Sprinkle with the seeds and almonds. Dig in and enjoy!
Berry Gone Mad Salad
1 red onion, thinly sliced and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil & red wine vinegar dressing or lemon tahini dressing
2 cups mixed greens or spinach, chopped
½ cup organic cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 cup mixed organic berries of your choice
¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
Combine the tomatoes, greens and onion in a large bowl. Top with berries, pumpkin seeds and dressing. Add a protein if desired (optional).
Give these recipes a try and let me know what you think in the comments below!