Strawberries Thrive, Despite the Drought
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By now, everyone knows that California, America’s agricultural market basket, is facing one of the most severe droughts on record. In San Francisco, our family is doing its part to conserve water—mindfully taking shorter showers, irrigating our plants sparingly and filling the dishwasher to the max before running it.
Since California produces half of all the fresh produce grown in this country, consumers are concerned about the potential of skyrocketing prices. So far, so good.
According to an article by Russ Parsons, food editor of the Los Angeles Times, while some fruit and vegetable prices have increased significantly, produce prices in the aggregate remain stable and USDA is forecasting a nominal increase of 2 or 3 percent.
Parsons identifies which fruits and vegetables have increased in price, which ones have decreased and which have stayed the same. The weather has been good for strawberries (price down 8 percent), the article says, and quality fruit are coming on the market sooner, a cause for celebration.
I have a special affinity with California strawberries. It was my first client when I started a career in food public relations. And my cousin is married into a family of third-generation strawberry growers in Southern California.
The first thing one learned about strawberries, working on the account years ago, was how good they are for you. Because they’re so pretty, taste delicious and seem so indulgent, we tend to dismiss nutrition. Yet one serving of eight medium strawberries has more vitamin C than an orange and provides beneficial antioxidants and nutrients including potassium, folate and fiber, all for 45 calories. And current research seems to show that strawberries may have a positive effect on disease prevention, including cancer and heart disease, anti-aging, brain function and overall good health.
Try some creative ways to incorporate more strawberries into your menus, courtesy of the California Strawberry Commission:
- Instead of a tomato—substitute strawberries in salsas and salads.
- With cured and smoked foods—team strawberries with smoked salmon and cured meats, such as prosciutto, jamón serrano or smoked pork chops.
- Paired with proteins—richer meats or firm-fleshed fish that are traditionally served with fruity sauces (pork, duck, baked ham, chicken or salmon) will go well with strawberry salsas or chutneys.
- In drinks—frozen strawberries make super ice cubes. Add frozen strawberries, instead of ice, directly to blender drinks.
- Roast strawberries—to concentrate their flavor; use as a sweet or savory sauce, or as a sandwich condiment.
Here’s a simple roasted strawberry recipe I made yesterday. Taste your strawberries first. If they are super-sweet, you can cut back on the sugar by a tablespoon or two.
8 ounces California strawberries (about 14 medium berries)
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon Chambord raspberry liqueur (optional)
Heat oven to 350°F. Rinse strawberries and pluck off green caps. Use a melon baller to hull strawberries. Pat dry with paper towels. Put strawberries in an 8- by 8-inch ceramic or glass baking dish. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake for 20 minutes, or until strawberries become limp and soft, and juices are bubbling. Remove from oven and stir gently to incorporate any unmelted brown sugar. Stir in Chambord, if using. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold. Makes slightly under 1 cup or enough sauce for 4 servings.
- Serve roasted strawberries over waffles, pancakes or crepes.
- Spoon over ice cream or yogurt.
- Serve with pound cake or cheesecake.
- Instead of brown sugar, experiment with other types of sweeteners, such as honey or maple syrup.
- The amount of sweetening required will depend on the sweetness of the strawberries; this recipe was developed with early-season berries that were a little tart.
For more strawberry recipes, check out our Special Fork recipe database.
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