The sweet and sour taste of strawberries are unforgettable, and its vivid red color always lures consumers to savor them. Winter is the best season to appreciate the taste of strawberries, and when the strawberry season begins in Taiwan in December, many couples and families swarm to "u-pick" farms to have some fun picking the luscious fruit, long a favorite in Taiwan.
The strawberry was introduced to Taiwan by the Japanese during the Japanese colonial period, and records indicated it was grown in Taiwan as early as 1934. The fruit was cultivated on a small scale at first, however, because of the lack of success in growing it in abundance. With the introduction of the Marshall variety of strawberry in 1952 and plans to grow it on a large scale, Taiwan's strawberry sector became more active. The idea of "u-pick" strawberry farms promoted by the Dahu Farmers' Association in Miaoli County in the 1990s met with success and helped boost the sector further by spawning the popularity of picking strawberries as a recreational activity.
Now, strawberries are grown in southern and central Taiwan in Miaoli, Nantou, Taichung and Tainan counties. Among them, Dahu Township in Miaoli County is the major production area and the center of Taiwan's fruit-picking trend. The major types of strawberries currently grown in Taiwan's U-pick farms -- the Sunshian, Taoyuan No. 1 and Taoyuan No. 2 – can be harvested from December to April.
The strawberry, which belongs to the Rosaceae family, grows in about 30-40 days. Characterized by its heart shape, fresh, juicy flesh and sweet and sour taste, the fruit possess a rare combination of color, flavor and taste. It is also healthy, especially for the elderly and children, because it contains fructose, sucrose, citric acid, malic acid, salicylic acid and amino acid and is also an excellent source of iron, calcium and phosphorous.
Some simple tips on the fruit:
When buying strawberries, do not choose fruit that is fully matured because it is easily bruised and damaged. Consumers are recommended to buy strawberries that are 70-80 percent ripe with white shoulders and a fragrant aroma. Select those that have a bright appearance and maximum red color development.
After bring the berries home, put them in the refrigerator directly without washing them. Only clean them just before they are to be used or consumed. If the berries turn soft, they can be used to make juice, sorbet or other desserts. To keep them as fresh as possible, layer them between sheets of paper towels in the refrigerator with their heads down.