Last updated: May 14. 2014 10:59AM - 1088 Views

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The warmer weather brings the opening of farm stands and the availability of fresh produce. In addition to several types of fruits and vegetables available, strawberries are plentiful throughout the county at various farm stands.

According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, our state ranks fourth in the nation in strawberry production with approximately 1,800 acres of strawberries harvested each year — the majority offered directly from the farm to the consumer.

The juicy, red fruit is both delicious and nutritious. The United States Department of Agriculture reports strawberries are the fifth most preferred fresh fruit in the United States because of their abundance of nutrients. A serving of strawberries packs a punch with more vitamin C than a medium-sized orange. The berries are also high in antioxidants, folate, potassium and fiber. A one-cup serving, about six to nine berries, has no fat, cholesterol, or sodium and only 50 calories. Strawberries are great alone as a snack or as an addition to smoothies, salads and sweets. Strawberries can also be frozen for up to a year or processed into tasty jams and jellies.

When picking or purchasing strawberries, select plump and richly colored red berries. Try to avoid unripe berries that have white or green tips. Also avoid strawberries that are missing green caps, mushy, or showing signs of mold.

Fresh strawberries are perishable and should be used as soon as possible to ensure the best taste and texture. If not using immediately, loosely cover berries and refrigerate. Wash the berries just before eating to maintain the natural protective outer layer. Let the berries air dry or gently pat dry with a paper towel and enjoy.

Like any fruit, strawberries taste best when picked fresh. Several studies suggest that most of the food in the United States travels about 1,500 miles before it reaches consumers. Take advantage of the local availability of strawberries and a fresher, tastier flavor while the season lasts. Here’s a list of local growers currently offering strawberries:

— Floyd Farms Strawberries, located at 5043 Stone Road in Fairmont.

— Bo’s Berry Patch, located at 2190 Ashpole Church Road in Rowland.

— Jack Pait Strawberry Farm, located at 1561 Old Allenton Road in Lumberton.

— Strawberries by Ronny Wilkerson on Elizabethtown Road, located at near the Food Line on N.C. 41

— Powers Strawberries & Farmers Market, located at 906 Barker Church Road in Lumberton.

— Locklear Farm, located at 9840 Deep Branch Road in Pembroke.

Casey Hancock is a community resource development agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Robeson County Center.

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