Florida’s Season Is In Full Swing
by Kirsten Harrington
According to Haley Veilleux, retail manager of Scott’s Country Market at Long & Scott Farms, the best strawberries are those that are red all the way to the tip (photo provided by Long & Scott Farms.)
There are so many benefits to living in the Sunshine State. Florida strawberries are just one of them. While many states are still trying to thaw out from winter, Florida fields are alive with vivid, luscious strawberries. Plant City is known as the winter strawberry capital of the world and the dominant producing region for winter berries in the United States. If you missed the Strawberry Festival this year, don’t worry. The growing season isn’t over yet, so check with local farmers markets and grocers for local strawberries.
“The strawberries are great so far,” said Haley Veilleux, retail manager of Scott’s Country Market at Long & Scott Farms in Mount Dora. “The berries are gorgeous and have never been sweeter.”
The farm sells freshly picked berries and u-pick, which Veilleux hopes will run through the end of March, depending on Mother Nature.
Good & Good for You
While strawberries certainly are dazzling to the eye and delicious to eat, they are also packed with nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, fiber and folic acid that are vital for good health. Strawberries are also high in ellagic acid, which is believed to boost immunity and help fight cancer. Virtually fat- and cholesterol-free, and low in calories, sugar and sodium make these red gems the perfect snack. In fact, a study by Yale’s Prevention Research Center ranked strawberries a perfect 100 on the nutrient-density scale, ranking them equal to spinach and more than likely a whole lot easier to get your kids to eat!
Berry Good Tips
“Look for berries that are red all the way to the tip,” Veilleux said. “Don’t wash them until you are ready to eat them, as they will break down faster if you do. The best place to store is in the refrigerator. Fresh, ripe berries will keep four to five days in the refrigerator.”
If you somehow are lucky enough to have more Florida fresh strawberries than you can eat in the next few days, plan on freezing them. Wash and carefully dry the berries with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels, remove the stem and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze until solid, and then place berries into zip lock bags. Take out the desired amount and whirl frozen berries into smoothies or lemonade, bake them in coffee cakes, cook them into an ice cream topping, or add to fruit salad for a fresh burst of color and flavor year-round.
Strawberry Pretzel Salad
This unusual dish is one of Veilleux’s favorites. It can be served as a dessert or side salad at potlucks and parties.
2 cups crushed pretzels
3⁄4 cup unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 (8-ounce) carton frozen whipped topping, thawed
2 (3-ounce) packages strawberry gelatin
2 cups boiling water
4-5 cups of fresh strawberries or two 10-ounce packages of frozen strawberries.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stir together crushed pretzels, melted butter and 3 tablespoons of white sugar. Mix well and press mixture into bottom of 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bake 8-10 minutes, until set. Set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together cream cheese and 1 cup white sugar. Fold in whipped topping. Spread mixture onto cooled crust. Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Stir in strawberries and allow to set briefly. When mixture is about the consistency of egg whites, pour and spread over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate until set.
Fun With Strawberries
• Microwave chocolate chips for 30 seconds at a time until smooth and melted. Dip berries in chocolate for a quick, elegant dessert.
• Slice strawberries and layer with Nutella between two waffles for a breakfast treat.
• Blend strawberries with margarita mix and use an extra berry to garnish the glass.
• Dip strawberries in balsamic vinegar, coat with sugar and grill one to two minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
• Add sliced strawberries to red jello for an eye-catching side dish.
• Serve sliced strawberries on a cracker with white cheddar and a basil leaf.
• Put out a bowl of strawberries along with sour cream and brown sugar for dipping. 💓