Have you been to a farmers market in California during the past several weeks? The strawberries are so big, they are the size of small apples! Sweet, juicy, and delicious, these monster berries are one of the finest crops in recent years. And people are licking them up with delight.
The strawberry season in California is one of the most exciting times for those who love these bright red berries, and this year you'll have plenty to celebrate. In addition to a crop that can't be beat, festivals in California pay homage to the delightful California crop, the strawberry. California is the nation's leading producer of strawberries and over 1.5 billion pounds of strawberries are produced annually, roughly 88% percent of the country's total fresh and frozen strawberry production. With California's unique coastal climate in which western ocean exposure provides moderate temperatures year round with warm sunny days and cool nights, the perfect combination for growing delicious, beautiful strawberries make this the Berry Capital of the U.S. and perhaps the World! Strawberry shipments begin around February and peak around May-June with new growing methods extending the season all the way through November. Technically, California can produce strawberries all year long.
California strawberries are hand-picked when ripe and they don't continue to ripen after picking. We export approx. 10 - 12% of our strawberries to other countries, with Canada receiving the largest supply of fresh berries, and Japan receiving the most frozen berries (though they also receive fresh strawberries, too.) According to California Strawberry Commission, California exported 241.6 million pounds of fresh strawberries and 32.1 million pounds of frozen strawberries in 2009, with a combined value of $316.4 million. California fresh strawberry exports represented 15.4 percent of the state's fresh crop and 7.7 percent of frozen production.
Counties Monterey, Ventura, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Orange all find strawberries among their top farm produce annually. Strawberry plants are one of the top farm items in Lassen County.
Low in calories and packed with vital nutrients like vitamin C, folate and fiber, strawberries are like eating candy to many-especially when made into desserts such as strawberry shortcake with whipped cream, dipped into rich chocolate, or blended in smoothies with bananas and other great ingredients.
Strawberry Shortcake with Fresh Sauce Recipe:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups cold whipping cream
Fresh Strawberry Sauce
1 pint basket California strawberries (12 ounces), stemmed and halved
Sugar to taste
1 pint basket California strawberries (12 ounces), stemmed and sliced
1 1/2 cups whipping cream, whipped and sweetened with sugar, to taste
Mint sprigs, for garnish
Heat oven to 350 degrees. To make shortcakes, in bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Gently stir with fork, gradually mix in cream until just combined. Mixture should barely hold together. With hands, form dough into six balls; place 3 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in center of oven 25 to 30 minutes until light golden brown, cool on baking sheet. Meanwhile, to make Fresh Strawberry Sauce, in blender, purée the halved strawberries until smooth. Sweeten to taste with sugar; cover and set aside. Split shortcakes horizontally. Divide sauce among six dessert plates; top each with a shortcake bottom, 1/4-cup sliced strawberries and ¼-cup whipped cream. Cover with shortcake tops. Spoon remaining strawberries and whipped cream over shortcakes, dividing equally. Garnish with mint sprigs. Yield: Makes 6 servings.
662 calories; 45 g fat; 163 mg cholesterol; 679 mg sodium; 60 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 7 g protein.p>