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Sensational Seasonal Strawberries

We are so lucky to live where we live here in Niagara because we have access to so many fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables. From May to November, our markets are brimming with bright beautiful colours and textures from all that our local land has to offer us.

Why Buy What’s Local and In Season?
Buying what’s being harvested now is crucial for so many reasons. Not only is the produce fresh and tastes fantastic, but also it has traveled less and thus has had less time than out-of-season food to lose its nutrients. Food grown in greenhouses locally is another good alternative but definitely does not contain as many nutrients as food that’s grown outdoors.

Less travel from buying local also means less impact on the environment due to fewer gas emissions. You will be supporting local farmers in a time when agriculture is in constant struggle, and keeping your money in our communities helps to keep people stay here and work here as well. Plus, seasonal fruits and veggies are less expensive, so you can save some more of that hard earned cash.
Want to know what’s in season and when? Foodland Ontario has a great chart on their website that you can print and throw on your fridge so you can get the most bang for your buck at the grocery store during any given month.

Strawberry Season, Baby!
My absolute favourite seasonal food right now is the strawberry. Not only are they naturally sweet, easy to snack on, and a beautiful, bright addition to any dish, but they are also so healthy it’s insane.

Nerd Alert: Ok time to get sciency and use some big fancy words…bear with me. Strawberries are full of flavonoids, which are phytonutrients (plant nutrients) that give fruits and veggies their bright colours. These flavonoids are potent antioxidants that are good for the immune system and are anti-inflammatory. When the cells in your body are under oxidative stress from things like smoking, drinking alcohol, eating processed foods, being exposed to pollution, and dealing with stress to name a few, they produce free radicals. These free radicals damage cells, proteins, and DNA, and are the source of much inflammation and disease. Foods rich in antioxidants like strawberries help to relieve and reduce this oxidative stress, which means you are producing less free radicals and helping to prevent illness and disease. Pretty frickin’ awesome huh? And strawberries are one of the most antioxidant-rich foods on earth, which means that they can help prevent heart disease, cancer, stroke, and reduce inflammation.

In addition, strawberries are rich in Vitamin C, iodine, magnesium, and potassium, which all help improve brain function, improve nerve function, and reduce blood pressure. The low carbohydrate and high fibre content of the little red berry help to stabilize blood sugars and help you poop. They even boost the production of fat burning hormones, so eat your big red strawberry heart out!

But we’re not done yet…strawberries are also rich in alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that helps with skin issues like acne, flare-ups, dry skin, and aging skin. Next time you want a facial, avoid the expensive salon or using harmful chemicals in single-use plastic containers and DIY: Combine 3 organic strawberries with 1 tablespoon of honey and ¼ avocado in a blender. Use this on your face and hair for a great smelling mask that will leave you feeling smooth and luxurious.

Warning: Strawberries are #1 on the Environmental Working Group’s list of the most pesticide- and herbicide heavy fruits and veggies. This means it’s imperative to buy local, organic strawberries whenever possible. Local because there are extra preservative-type chemical sprays that help food travel (ew!) and organic because they use minimal and naturally occurring protectants that adhere to a rigorous government standard. A great place to get pesticide-free strawberries is Great Gerberas on Highway 20 in Fenwick. If you absolutely can’t afford or find organic strawberries, soak your berries in apple cider vinegar or baking soda and water for 10 minutes and rinse thoroughly before eating to minimize the impact.

Healthy Strawberry Cheesecake Bites:
1) Core a pint of strawberries with a paring knife from the bottom, leaving the green leafy top intact.
2) Fill a piping bag (or Ziploc bag if you have to) with softened organic cream cheese and pipe into the cores of the strawberries until the cheese just reaches the surface.
3) Melt ½ bag of dark chocolate chips (preferably sugar-free) and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water, and once completely melted dip each strawberry in the chocolate to cover most of the berry.
4) Roll each strawberry in crushed toasted pecans or macadamia nuts, and place in the fridge to allow the chocolate to set.
5) Serve as a healthy, tasty, bite-sized dessert that even the kiddos will love.

Strawberry Basil Vinaigrette
Combine 3-4 strawberries, 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar, 4 ripped basil leaves, a ¼ cup of olive oil and 10 grinder turns of fresh cracked black pepper + a pinch of sea salt into a blender. Blend until smooth, and serve on a spinach salad with feta, bacon, avocado, red onion and pumpkin seeds.

Written by Kate Notwell

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