WHAT'S GROWIN' ON
IN LAKE & MENDOCINO COUNTIES


Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday - Strawberries

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! Once again, our local expert strawberry grower brought in some of his strawberry bounty to share with us. Gardener Marin’s strawberries are the best we’ve ever had and learning more about the health benefits of these little fruits made them taste even better.

Wild strawberries were first discovered in North America where they were included in many Native American dishes, but Central and South America were later discovered to have another variety of the berry as well. Because these berries, which are part of the rose family, were growing so abundantly in the wild, they weren’t being cultivated until much later. European colonists shipped strawberry plants from America in 1600, but cultivation of strawberries really took off in the early 19th century due to a dessert craze of strawberries with cream. Once railroad transportation was established in the U.S., strawberries were shipped from New York and spread throughout the country. Now California grows 75 percent of strawberries in the U.S. In Mendocino and Lake Counties, strawberries are usually in season from May through October.

If you have a patch of full sun in your garden, you'll easily be able to grow some strawberries. There are three types of strawberry plants -- Day-neutral, Everybearer and Junebearer. The Junebearer tends to be the best for a home garden. To learn more about the types of strawberries and best planting practices, check out The Old Farmer's Almanac article.

Strawberries are quite versatile and can be eaten raw, cooked, made into jellies or jams, etc. The leaves are also edible or can be used to make a great tea! It is important to prioritize organic strawberries however, as the Environmental Working Groups Dirty Dozen list places strawberries at the top, meaning they have the highest level of pesticide residue.

So what are these powerhouse little berries doing for us? Studies have shown that strawberries can contribute to:

  • Preventing heart disease, strokes and cancer
  • Improving eye, hair and skin health
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving metabolic health
  • Preventing allergies
  • Helping regulate mood

While strawberries are 91% water, they’re also packed with a powerful number of vitamins and nutrients, such as folate, manganese, potassium, vitamin C and much more. Additionally, they have some of the highest levels of antioxidants when compared to other fruits. Specifically, they contain pelargonidin, ellagic acid, ellagitannins, procyanidins, and anthocyanins, which all are key contributors to the health benefits we'll cover here.

Many studies have been done surrounding the antioxidants in berries, such as ellagic acid, anthocyanin, quercetin and other flavonoids, and have shown them to be linked with decreasing the risk of heart disease as well as reducing bad cholesterol and improving good cholesterol and blood pressure levels.The potassium and magnesium in strawberries makes them good for reducing hypertension and helping maintain proper blood flow in the body.

Studies have also shown that strawberries can help prevent the growth of tumors and fight off cancer cells. Ellagic acid and ellagitannins, the antioxidants mentioned above, are key in fighting this inflammation and tumor growth. These antioxidants are also anti-inflammatory in that they can help prevent blood clots which could lead to strokes. Additionally, strawberries contain malonate esters, which are chemicals linked to preventing blood clots as well.

The abundant antioxidants in strawberries can be helpful with all kinds of inflammation in the body. They can help prevent gout and symptoms of arthritis, as well aid in the reduction of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a substance produced by the liver that increases inflammation. Another handy anti-inflammatory benefit is their ability improve control of allergic reactions due to fisetin, an anti-allergy flavonoid.

Once again, the high dose of antioxidants in strawberries help protect your eyes from free radical damage as well, along with offering prevention of other eye conditions and infections, macular degeneration and vision issues. Berries, being rich in flavonoids, are commonly suggested as vital brain boosting foods and can help maintain cognitive function. Strawberries are also high in potassium which is linked to better cognitive function as well.

Strawberries could be beneficial to your metabolic health, especially for those with diabetes, by helping to regulate blood sugar. Studies have shown that the normal increase in glucose and insulin after eating a lot of carbs can be reduced when eating strawberries with that meal. Strawberries can also increase production of the fat-burning hormones adiponectin and leptin. They do have a low glycemic index score, meaning they probably won’t wreak havoc on blood sugar levels.

Strawberries contain many skin boosting properties and are often used as an ingredient in skin care products. Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), ellagic acid and salicylic acid are present in strawberries and can be helpful in treating issues of acne and hyperpigmentation and protecting from free radical and UV damage. Being extremely rich in vitamin C – 150% of the amount recommended daily from just one serving – strawberries can help boost collagen production, a process that requires vitamin C. Collagen is a protein that is extremely vital for skin health, promoting smooth, healthy skin and repairing any damage. If you want to get creative and you can manage to not eat your strawberries, you can also use them as a face mask to help treat skin issues or use it to whiten your teeth naturally due to the malic acid they contain. Strawberry slices placed on your eyelids can also help reduce puffiness around the eyes.

On top of all of these other benefits, the teeny tiny seeds of strawberries have a lot to offer as well. The alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – a type of omega-3 fatty acid – they contain can offer mood-enhancing and stabilizing benefits comparable to prescription drugs.
Strawberries are a common food allergy for people, especially in kids. The anthocyanins we’ve emphasized are thought to be part of what’s causing an allergic reaction. So white strawberries that haven’t started to change to red due to an increase in anthocyanin, might be better tolerated by folks who do experience an allergic reaction.
Get your hands on our cookbook, Sharing the Bounty, for a gardener favorite recipe for homemade strawberry ice cream!
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Sources:

  1. The Spruce Eats - A Brief History of the Strawberry by Peggy Trowbridge Filippone
  2. Healthline - Strawberries 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
  3. Well Within - 10 Health and Wellness Benefits of Strawberries
  4. Organic facts - 18 Nutritional Benefits of Strawberries by Meenakshi Nagdeve
  5. The Old Farmer's Almanac - Growing Strawberries

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