07/13/2012 06:28 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Get Down & Dirty With Strawberries


Every week gets Down & Dirty, where we break down our favorite seasonal fruits, vegetables and more by the numbers.

Strawberries are nuts! Actually, they're fruit -- and despite the name, they're not berries. Whether you're eating them plain or with clotted cream, stacking them sky-high with meringues, or using them to top a spinach salad, here's everything you need to know about buying, storing and eating everyone's favorite all-American fruit (literally -- the Pilgrims had them at the first Thanksgiving) that's versatile, delicious and as good for snacking as it is for sherbet, ricotta or roasting.

1. Seedy business: Let's get technical: the reason that a strawberry is not, in fact, a berry is because true berries have their seeds on the inside. According to the California Strawberry Commission, there are on average 200 seeds on every strawberry! 

2. Color Theory: As America"s Test Kitchen tells us, the strawberries that you see at the store may be red -- they continue to ripen in color after being picked -- but it doesn't mean that they're sweet. Strawberries come in all shades, from orange-red to much darker, all depending on the variety, the weather and the soil. 

3. Size Doesn't Matter: Next time you're at the market, try buying the tiniest strawberries you can and compare them with the larger ones. Often, tinier ripe berries have a more concentrated flavor.

4. Vivid Vivisection: When you bite into a strawberry, you should see uniform red on the inside. Strawberries that are white inside -- or worse, hollow -- don't last as long because of the air space of oxygen inside the fruit that speeds decay. 

5. Leaf Cap: The leaves on a strawberry are edible, but you probably don't want them in your pie or ice cream. Use a spoon to easily scoop away, or "hull," the top of the plant.

6. See Spot Run: Strawberries are often sold in tiny baskets called "punnets." (Cool name, huh?) If you see red splotches on the punnets of strawberries you're buying at market, it's a good sign that some of the fruit may be too ripe and has been crushed under its own weight. Unless you'll be cooking with them that day, look for a clean one.

Looking for new ways to showcase the versatility of strawberries? Here are three totally different -- and equally delicious -- recipes: