The common misconception with strawberries is what season do they actually grow in? When I first heard “A Taste of Summer all Winter Long” it caught my attention because I assumed Strawberry season everywhere was during the Summer. Now that I’ve had the pleasures of visiting The Florida Strawberries Growers Association, their farm and many other farms last month I have so much more knowledge behind where these delicious berries actually come from and the heart that goes along with the process. Though I live in the state of NH and it’s cold and dreary here, February is actually really nice in Florida where strawberry growers are harvesting their winter crop and shipping hand-picked fruit to key markets. It’s perfect for me and my New Englanders because Fresh Florida Strawberries are available from December through April, just when some other strawberry-producing areas are dormant. I want to share some facts with you that I learned during my weekend.
FACT: Did you know that each strawberry is hand picked and only touched that one time? Strawberries must be picked at full ripeness because they cannot ripen once they are picked.
FACT: Did you know that each and every strawberry gets packaged and shipped the same day it was shipped??
FACT: Eating eight strawberries a day has been shown to lower blood pressure and to improve memory and heart health.
FACT: Eating strawberries on a regular basis may lower the risk of some cancers and help reduce obesity.
FACT: Strawberries are the favorite fruit of Americans – both children and adults.
FACT: There are approximately 8,000 acres of strawberries grown in Florida, the second largest producing region in the U.S.
FACT: Strawberry flavor is at its best at room temperature. Remove the berries from the refrigerator an hour or two before serving. To help berries retain flavor, texture and nutrients, avoid washing or removing their caps until ready for use.
Follow my weekend as we stayed in a gorgeous hotel that anyone would enjoy never mind a foodie, where we dined at some of the best restaurants in Tampa, FL and of how we enjoyed Florida Strawberries all weekend long.
The Epicurean is located in South Tampa’s vibrant SoHo district. The late Bern Laxer believed strongly that in the business of food and wine, one must be a student for life. The hotel is a crafted foodie’s paradise. The Epicurean Theatre located inside has a full kitchen where they hold food tastings, cooking classes, teaching demo’s and so much more.
We also had our Sunday Supper at the Epicurean Hotel where they served a variety of foods consisting of Strawberry and Arugula Salad, a Coconut Curry Monkfish (yes I ate this!), Strawberry and Almond CousCous, Strawberry BBQ Short Ribs, Strawberry Coleslaw and of course Bread and Strawberry butter. Amazing doesn’t even say the word. The way their chef incorporated Fresh Florida Strawberries into each dish was truly inspirational. So inspirational that you’ll be seeing some recipes coming your way from this Momma!
We learned about the transport and care of Florida Strawberries. Astin Farms now represents more than 1200 acres of strawberries that produce over 40 million pounds of fruit each season. During the winter months you can expect to see Astin strawberries at many local grocery stores. I loved hearing about the family behind this business. Nothing like a family business!
A nightlife and lounge-like atmosphere where three owners invite you to come eat, drink, and be social as they serve up the best in new American fare and handcrafted cocktails. A great place to gather after a long day to unwind or meet an old friend to catch up. We dined here where I enjoyed some pretty delicious bites!
Also located in the SoHo district. Ava is a elevated bar/eatery that prepares wood-fired pizza and offers an innovative Italian menu in a beautiful rustic atmosphere. Fresh bread baked daily! We were offered a brunch menu consisting of waffles topped with Florida Strawberries and I chose the smoked Turkey Sandwich topped with sliced tomatoes, pancetta, a fried egg and cheddar cheese.
I love how Bern’s explains a dinner at their Steak House as a “Unique Culinary Experience.” I love how they put the heart and family behind everything about the place from the building, the dishes and of course the wine cellar. We had the pleasures of touring the wine cellar and eating in their Dessert Room upstairs. We sipped on dessert wine, sampled amazing bites of sweet desserts, it was really the perfect closing to a wonderful weekend with so many amazing people.
I have been home from this exciting trip for three weeks now and I kid you not I have made five going on six new recipes incorporating these bites of berries! Stay tuned I’ll be sharing them with all of you because I’ll be showing you just how to showcase and make Fresh Florida Strawberries a part of your everyday diet! For more recipes with strawberries go visit Strawberry Sue and tell her I sent you.