It’s a berry good time of the year. Walking down the aisles of the farmers market, you will see strawberries everywhere this time of year. So how do you choose which ones to buy? Many vendors have samples readily available at the front of their stalls. But what if they don’t? Ask. I find that most will happily offer a sample.
From time to time I buy baskets from a few vendors, take them home and have a taste test with my family. Here in the Bay Area we have several microclimates that affect the flavor and ripeness. Be sure to taste each week as flavor can change.
Where are the best berries grown? According to the California Strawberry Commission, “California’s northern strawberry growing region is south of San Francisco and includes Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties and some acreage in Santa Clara and San Benito counties. Watsonville and Salinas account for almost half of the state’s strawberry acreage. Shipments from northern areas begin in April, peak in May or June, and continue through November.”
There are three varieties that I find at the Thursday Marin Farmers Market; Chandler, Albion and Seascape. At Tomatero Organic Farm stall, they typically mix Albion with the lesser known, but equally delicious Rosa variety. Some people swoon at the mention of Seascape. I find that Chandler never fails to please. It’s a personal preference.
10 ways to use Strawberries:
1. Sounds unusual but trust me this recipe for Balsamic-Macerated Strawberries with Basil is delicious
2. It’s the weekend! Why not make a fruity Strawberry Daiquiris.
3. Strawberry Shortcakes are a classic dessert. Many have their favorites but these take the cake!
4. I’ll be making this Strawberry Pie on Sunday. I”ll add rhubarb that I picked up at the Swanton Berry Farm stand and serve with vanilla ice cream. UPDATE: pie was heavenly. Although next time I’ll reduce the quantity of orange juice called for in the recipe.
5. A bowl of Strawberry Frozen Yogurt is a snack any family would enjoy.
6. The recipe for Berry Coconut Smoothie below is a winner!
7. Bought too many and afraid they will spoil before being able to enjoy them? Freeze them. Wash, dry then remove the stem. Place on a cookie sheet and put in freezer for 24 hours. Remove from tray and place in a reusable container or plastic bag and return to freezer. Great to have on hand for smoothies and desserts.
8. Speaking of dessert….it’s called Raspberry Cornmeal Crumble Bars but I’ve used strawberries in place of the raspberries and it’s delicious. Using frozen strawberries plus a few other adaptations, I replaced half of the flour with whole wheat flour and half of the regular sugar with coconut sugar. Makes for a sweet finish to a meal or a great after school treat.
9. How about a tall refreshing glass of Strawberry Lemonade? You can still find lemons at farmers markets and here in California lemon trees are everywhere. Ask a friend or neighbor if you can pick a few.
10. Here are a few simple ways to add strawberries into your day. Make fruit kabobs, slice and place in a peanut butter sandwich. Top off your morning bowl of yogurt or oatmeal, dip in melted chocolate, layer onto s’mores. For a simple dessert, slice a pint of berries then sprinkle with about a tablespoon of sugar let sit for 30 minutes, top with whipped cream. Drop one or two in your Sunday Brunch mimosa, top a piece of toast with nutella and sliced strawberries.
The recipe for Berry Coconut Smoothie follows. I use these ice cubes made with coconut water in this drink.
- 1 cup mixed strawberries and blueberries
- 12 frozen coconut water ice cubes*
- 1 cup açaí juice (or another berry type juice of your choice)
- *Fill an ice cube tray with coconut water and put in the freezer for 24 hours
- Put all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth
Looking for something to do next weekend? The California Strawberry Festival is happening in Oxnard May 21st and 22nd.