At a market near you: fresh strawberries |

At a market near you: fresh strawberries

Michele Kayal, The Associated Press

When warm weather brings fresh strawberries to your area, look for a white shoulder on the fruit. These will have a heartier texture and more sugar than their rosy red counterparts. / Larry Crowe / The Associated Press

The warm weather brings a bounty of fresh summer fruit, and strawberries are among the first. Supermarket berries, which come almost exclusively from California, peak in early July. Local berries will be staggered through early summer by region.

But certain principles for selecting, enjoying and storing strawberries remain true all season.

When buying berries, choose those with a little white shoulder around the top, says Watsonville, Calif., grower Erik Jertberg. They will have a heartier texture and more sugar than their rosy red counterparts.

“I like it just before it turns fully ripe,” he says. “That’s when it’s got the sweetest taste.” And choose “wrinkly” berries over taut, shiny ones. The wrinkled ones have lost some water, which concentrates their sweetness.

When serving the berries, go counter-intuitive: instead of sugar, try salt or something sour. Dip them into a balsamic vinegar reduction or roasted walnut oil, which will contrast their flavor. Or toss them like tomatoes with a spicy arugula salad.

Or if you are hankering for something sweet, throw a handful of berries into the blender with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and cool the day with a fresh strawberry milk shake. Or stir them into a flavorful fruit salad dressed with lime zest, lime juice, wild honey (heated in the microwave for 5 seconds) and a pinch of sea salt.

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However you use them, make sure strawberries are at room temperature when eaten. As with tomatoes, cold dulls their flavor.

Kept in their clamshell or farm stand container, unwashed berries last 10 to 14 days in the refrigerator (not washing them is key). If you can’t eat them fast enough, wash them, cut off the tops, toss them into zip-close bags and freeze them for up to three months.