Welcome Antioxidant Season!

I visited the Farmers’ Market last weekend and was so excited to see multiple vendors selling pints of strawberries. Strawberries have been a long time summer favourite of mine – growing up a small patch was a staple in our family garden, and trips to U-Pick’s were mandatory when it came time for jam making.

Strawberry season is still in its early days, but a couple vendors came to the market ready to share what they had harvested thus far. I had the chance to talk to Mr. Nowoselski, who has been growing fruit in the valley for decades. His berries are grown and nurtured without sprays, and were almost sold out by the time I stopped in! I am excited to see what he will have at the market this weekend.

Mr. No!

I also had the chance to talk to Mr. Flamenco about his berry growing method and was super interested in learning about his “ever-bearing” strawberry plants. Although we are in the early stages of strawberry season, he had a total abundance thanks to these generous plants. The mature plants start to produce in early June and yield berries for about four weeks, the plants then take a little R and R time, a summer holiday if you will, and cease production in July. Following a little rejuvenation nation, these plants will start to produce again in August. The best part? Once these berries hit the market in August they will be there until frost. I was so pleasantly surprised to learn that Creston could be so lucky as to have fresh strawberries well into September, maybe even October! I usually find myself residing in Winnipeg by the time Creston gets its first frost, and I will have experienced about a dozen in Manitoba already, so clearly, I’ve been out of this whole ever bearing strawberry loop!

I don’t think I need to use nutritional quips to incite anyone to eat strawberries, the fragrant sweet little berries basically sell themselves, BUT, I’ll play my part and drop some knowledge on antioxidants. I wrote a bit about antioxidants last summer (in Asparagus 101) and their ability to combat free radicals in the body, Strawberries are packed with Vitamin C which is an extremely powerful and beneficial antioxidant.

Vitamin C protects the body against oxidative reactions that can cause diseases such as cancer, or disorders such as arthritis and other types of chronic inflammation. Vitamin C can also protect the eyes from free radicals formed from exposure to harsh UV rays in the sun. You would have to eat a lot of strawberries to replace the benefits of good old sunglasses, but hey why not help the cause? Humans are not able to synthesize Vitamin C within their bodies, so including Vitamin C in your diet is the best way to ensure these benefits! Dietitians of Canada recommended eating a minimum of 75-90 milligrams of Vitamin C a day, and a serving of strawberries (about half a handful) contains almost 52mg of Vitamin C. I can easily eat strawberries by the handful, especially when they are in season and available at the market. A little simple math says market goers that are strawberry eaters will absolutely be getting their Vitamin C requirements and then some!

AND thanks to the ever-bearing plants in our valley, these benefits can be enjoyed for months to come, so please, think of me in my in my long johns and mittens while you are enjoying your late September fresh antioxidant punch. I’ll probably be loading up on warm coffee and toast with that aforementioned strawberry jam.

In Good Food,

Reede Hawton

Nutrition Rep