It’s the middle of March and all I can see is red! Florida strawberries have invaded the market. Shiny clamshell packages stacked high in the center of the produce aisle draw me in, as my mind works over all the possible ways to savor them. The sweet and tart strawberry season is in full swing, and I want to make sure to take full advantage.
Of all the fruits grown in Florida, strawberries are one of the first to ripen in the spring season and can be purchased as early as the new year with peak amounts hitting the market in February and March. Strawberries are a great signal that winter is out and the milder temperatures of spring are forthcoming.
During peak strawberry season there are great deals to be had, and with a little extra preparation, they can be enjoyed well into the summer. I am a big fan of buying extra strawberries and freezing or jarring them for later use. Homemade jams and preserves also make great gifts.
When buying fresh strawberries, it is important to choose berries that are plump, fragrant and firm, with no signs of bruising. It is always a good idea to rinse strawberries before you eat them, but only rinse what you are going to eat, otherwise they will become soggy.
The best way I have found to freeze them is to first give them a rinse with cold water. After they have been rinsed, dry them on a few paper towels. Once they have dried, they can be placed on a cookie sheet in a single layer and then put into the freezer overnight. The next day they can be put into freezer storage bags with the date written on the outside.
If you will be storing the frozen berries for a long time, make sure to remove as much air as possible from the baggies and seal them thoroughly. This will help to prevent freezer burn and keep the berries fresh.
When thawed, the strawberries can be used for making jam, as an addition to fruit salads or dessert sauces. They can also be used for making cake and cheesecake. If you want, try making sorbets and ice cream with them, and then you don’t even need to thaw them out.
Don’t let these amazing berries pass you buy. Try some of my favorite recipes from www.thefloridachef.com.