Florida Growers Launch Winter Strawberry Season
PLANT CITY/DOVER, FLA — Though it’s cold and dreary in many parts of the country, Florida strawberry growers are harvesting the first fruit of the winter strawberry season under sunny skies and mild temperatures.
Florida is the only place in the United States where strawberries are marketed in the winter when many parts of the country are blanketed with snow. Consumers can find fresh Florida strawberries in supermarkets from December through April.
Florida strawberries are hand planted in September and hand harvested beginning immediately after Thanksgiving and continuing through April each year. About 100 growers work more than 8,000 acres of berries in the state. After changing its primary crop from cotton to strawberries, the Plant City/Dover area became recognized as the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World. It was strawberries that made residents of these communities a family. That bond and community spirit continues to this day.
The Florida strawberry industry has a distinct transportation advantage especially to markets east of the Mississippi. The berries are rushed to market fresh and fast in climate-controlled refrigerated trucks for arrival at terminal markets and supermarkets mere hours after harvest. Florida-grown strawberries are some of the sweetest, reddest and juiciest strawberries consumers will ever taste.
“Each carton of Florida-grown strawberries will have geographic identification. We understand that consumers are thoughtful in their purchases of fresh produce today. Knowing these berries are grown in Florida should give purchasers confidence in the quality and freshness of winter strawberries,” said Sue Harrell, director of marketing for the Florida Strawberry Growers Association.
“The association is working with retailers and the food media to create awareness of winter strawberries. The availability of strawberries in the winter months comes as a pleasant surprise to many consumers. Strawberries from Florida make a colorful addition to holiday menus and special celebrations now through early spring.
“This year we’re also featuring nutritious salads and other versatile recipes for menu consideration,” Harrell noted.
Strawberry-centered holiday and Valentine’s Day gifts such as chocolate-dipped berries, strawberry pizza, classic strawberry shortcake and other special desserts can serve as economical and creative expressions of endearment for family and friends.
Strawberries are nutritious. Eight strawberries contain more vitamin C than one orange. A one-cup serving (about 8 to 10 medium-sized berries) contains 45 calories and has no fat, cholesterol or sodium.
Ten tips for selection, storage, serving Florida winter strawberries
Know what to look for and how to make the most of your purchase
- Select berries that are firm, fragrant, plump and bright-glossy red. They don’t ripen after harvest. Their caps should be bright green and fresh looking.
- Cool berries as soon as possible and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- The perfect storage temperature for strawberries is 32 to 36 degrees.
- Store the fruit in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator in their clamshell containers or in partially-opened plastic bags to maintain high humidity.
- Use strawberries as soon as possible after purchasing.
- Berry flavor is at its best at room temperature, so remove them 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.
- Remove the green caps with a light twisting motion or with the point of a paring knife. It’s as easy as a twist of the wrist.
- Serve strawberries straight up, out of hand for an easy grab-and-go nutritious snack.
- What could be better than strawberries and cream? Look for reduced- calorie or fat-free whipped cream products to save on calories.