The weather in Louisiana is hardly an indicator of the actual season, so I have learned to watch for other signs. The appearance of plump, bright red strawberries in long rows in the country and in green, pint-sized boxes at the farmers market tells me spring is near.

Strawberries are a healthful addition to your diet. The sweet little berries are packed with vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, antioxidants and more. One cup of strawberries provides more vitamin C than an orange — and leave less juice running down your forearms.

Strawberries that are fresh and locally grown are best nutritionally. After strawberries are stored for just two days, they begin to lose their vitamin C and antioxidants. They’re safe to eat well after two days, but you’ll be getting less of the berries’ nutrients.

When choosing strawberries, look for those that are a vibrant red and a little glossy.

If you don’t eat them right away, store your unwashed strawberries in the fridge. If you wash them, the berries will soak up the water and go bad much quicker.

When you’re ready to cook or eat them, just rinse the strawberries and put them in an air-tight container lined with paper towels and store in the refrigerator. If you think you won’t eat them all in a few days, cut off the leaves, hull them and freeze them in a plastic bag.

A perfect way to use fresh strawberries is in this salad, which balances the sweetness of the berries with a tangy balsamic vinegar.

And, when it comes to a dessert, rich cream cheese and dainty biscuits take these strawberry shortcakes to a whole new level.

Just smelling those bright red strawberries induces early onset of spring fever. Regardless of what the calendar says, strawberry season is one of Louisiana’s best.

Teresa B. Day is a local food writer and author of the “I Eat BR” blog. You can reach her at ieatbrla@gmail.com.