Strawberries, the 'red edge' for health

I never fail to get a thrill when I see the first, really good strawberries appear in the markets. They're beautiful to look at and oh-so-delicious to eat. But until I did some research, I had no idea how healthy they are!

In fact, in a comparison with bananas, grapes, apples and oranges (also very healthy), strawberries have the least sugar, the most vitamin C, as much fiber as oranges and almost as much folate.

In addition to being low in calories, strawberries are naturally high in potassium, folate, fiber, vitamin C and some powerful antioxidants.

In fact, strawberries are among the top three fruits that pack this disease-fighting punch!

Preliminary results from a Sphera Foundation study show that after eating strawberries, antioxidant levels in the body peak significantly. Once antioxidants are absorbed, they are able to fight free radicals - those rogue compounds that threaten our immune system.

Research shows that antioxidants are key to warding off chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

One of the more recent findings is that strawberries seem to fend off memory loss as well.

But let's not forget how deli- cious they are and how abundant they will be in just a few weeks!

There are hundreds of recipes that include this wonderful fruit. Here are a few to get you started.

Kathryn Hack is a former Madison Valley resident. To reach her, e-mail

Rosy Strawberry Soup (24 servings, 2/3 cups each)

1 1/2 quarts strawberry preserves
4 1/2 cups sour cream
1 1/2 cups sherry
6 tablespoons grenadine
3 cups of half-and-half
Four pint baskets fresh California strawberries, stemmed and halved
Mint sprigs for garnish

Whisk together strawberry preserves and sour cream until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight to blend flavors.

Ladle into stemmed glass goblets and garnish with mint.

Strawberry-Chocolate German Pancakes

1 1/4 cup butter or margarine
Four eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate pieces
One pint basket fresh California strawberries, stemmed and sliced
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt butter in 10-inch, ovenproof skillet. In a container or electric blender, measure eggs, milk and flour, and blend until smooth. Pour into hot skillet. Bake two minutes.

Remove from oven; sprinkle chocolate pieces over pancake and return to oven. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

Top with strawberries and dust with sugar. Serve immediately, cut into wedges.

Sumptuous Strawberry Shortcake (six servings)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of nutmeg
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup milk
Two eggs, separated
Additional sugar
Two pint baskets California strawberries, stemmed and sliced
1 cup whipping cream, whipped and sweetened

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray baking sheet with vegetable cooking spray.

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg into large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.

In another bowl, blend milk and egg yolks with fork; stir into flour mixture to make a soft dough. Divide dough into six portions; form into balls. Moisten fingers with egg whites and pat balls out on baking sheet to 3-inch circles, spacing apart.

Brush cakes with egg whites. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes until golden and springy to the touch. Remove to rack; cool.

Sweeten strawberries to taste. Halve cakes horizontally.

On plates, fill and garnish with strawberries and whipped cream.

Recipes are from the California Strawberry Commission.

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