The coming of spring is a magical time of year. For some peculiar reason, this season brings out the inner poet in us all (corny, I know). The themes of reawakening, rebirth, new life and new hope are on everyone’s mind. Especially for those unfortunate Northerners who’ve spent the last several months buried under a six-inch layer of wool. Yes, it’s Ok … you can stick your little heads out now—the snow and ice are actually receding. Hurray! Folks from northern climes might actually see something green growing in their yards for the first time since last September; hence, the hope of new life springs forth.
For us in the 904, though, green stuff is constantly growing. Right now, we’re in the middle of the year’s best growing conditions. What is the shining star of Florida produce? Maybe the orange? Heck, no, bro, that’s all in the past. Today’s star is the strawberry. The very best strawberries in the world are growing right here, right now in the fabulous Sunshine State. Counties and towns throughout Florida are in the midst of celebrating this delectable red jewel with annual festivals. The biggest celebration is in Plant City, featuring a build-your-own strawberry shortcake booth, a strawberry festival queen and music concerts. Plus, there are strawberry-themed crafts and knickknacks for sale. I hope strawberry wine is there—I’m always looking out for hipsters.
Where did the strawberry—this highly celebrated, exquisitely succulent gift of nature—originate? Glad you asked. We can thank several groups for the modern strawberry. Our journey begins in Chile where those pesky conquistadors found a variety of strawberry that produced a huge fruit. Unfortunately, when the delicate plants were taken back to Europe, they refused to bear fruit. The French figured out how to cross-pollinate the European variety with the Chilean variety and Brittany became the early capital of modern strawberry production.
I’ll bet most folks have a favorite way to enjoy these luscious morsels of spring. Some of y’all prefer to eat them “au naturel,” which is really hard to argue with (even for me) at this time of the season when Florida berries are at their juicy, sweet, slightly tart best.
Strawberries can also be among the most Cheffed-Up foods on Earth. How ’bout ripe strawberries with clotted cream (a heavenly pair) or maybe the ol’ standby, strawberry shortcake? BTWS, do not be a shoemaker and think pound cake is a substitute for a true sweet shortcake—it is most definitely not—yet still tasty. Just for fun, I like to macerate strawberries with sugar and blackberry brandy and drizzle them with a honey balsamic reduction. I also make a wicked good strawberry ice cream. Try this simple strawberry drop biscuit recipe, with a dollop of Chantilly cream.
Chef Bill’s Strawberry Biscuits
• 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 5 Tbsp. sugar
• 2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
• 1/2 tsp. baking soda
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 4 oz. butter, shredded
• 1/2 cup buttermilk
• 1 egg, beaten
• 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1 cup strawberries, diced 6oz
1. Mix all dry ingredients.
2. Mix in shredded butter by hand. Mix in buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract.
3. Fold in strawberries.
4. Bake 20 minutes at 350˚F. Brush on melted butter or egg wash. Bake till well browned.