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Stars of the Perfect Summer Drink

by  Maria C. Hunt on June 30, 2011
Stars of the Perfect Summer Drink

School's out, the weather's warm and summer is officially here.  When it comes to sipping and savoring, nothing says summer like the taste of sweet, juicy and fragrant strawberries.

These beloved red berry stars are in all sorts of cocktails such as daiquiris, margaritas and sangrias, delivering a bright and sweet flavor that is a perfect foil for whatever you're grilling.

Strawberries look pretty much alike from year to year, but just like iPhones and automobiles, new models of strawberries are released into the market annually. Some are public varieties such as Albion, Camarosa and Del Rey which are developed in research labs similar to the ones at the University of California at Davis. Others are proprietary strawberries that come from the unassuming research farm in Watsonville run by Driscoll's, the nation's largest supplier of fresh berries.

Scanning a Kindle tablet reader, Phillip Stewart, a research scientist and the main strawberry breeder for Driscoll's, explains to visitors that the 137S162 berry is one of his favorites this season. The sweet and juicy berry has some of the genetic characteristics of the Del Rey berry. In the lab, they choose berries that have desirable flavor, size, texture and color and then cross them with others to produce a better fruit.

"We will select for growing the ideal berry type," Stewart says. He also notes, "A desirable strawberry also depends on where you're from."

"The British especially want a light-colored berry, but Americans distrust that and think it was picked underripe," Stewart continues. "In reality, strawberries can be pink, white or even light orange."

While berries are available year-round, they're the most nutritious when they're fresh. One cup of strawberries has just 46 calories, 3 grams of sugar, 220 mg of potassium, 23 mg of calcium and 84 mg of Vitamin C - nearly a whole day's worth, according to the USDA.

When choosing fresh strawberries, make sure they are shiny and plump with fresh green tops. They should also smell fruity, ripe and slightly sweet.

Try one of these berry cocktails in the Chef's Corner for your next barbecue – they're sure to be a hit.

Cuisine Noir Summer Sangria

Balsamic Berry

Strawberry Ginger Refresher

Maria C. Hunt

Maria C. Hunt

Maria C. Hunt is an award-winning food and drink editor and the author of The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion (Clarkson Potter, 2009). full bio



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