Saturday, April 26, 2008

Juicy Fruit

Forget the gum by Wrigley's, I'm talking about strawberries here. Big, red, sweet, juicy berries.

As a Louisiana native, I was raised with home state pride in the strawberries found in and around Houma, La. They were succulent things of fantasy for a kid that had to rely on grocery store strawberries to satisfy her taste buds; grocery store strawberries -- in every state I have ever bought a strawberry in -- do not satisfy. They are hard, flavorless, and even the best aromas are met with a sense that the growers have not mastered the art of growing a tasty berry.

Every year I bought the brightest, best smelling strawberries in the grocery store, and a tub of whipped cream to wash them down. You see, my love of berries is as strong as it ever was, even it I could not eat them as I liked -- rinsed with water alone.

When I was in Houma, La, I purchased strawberries from roadside stands and gobbled them down. When I was in Augusta, Ga I acquired them by the pint or by the flat straight from the source and gorged myself on them.

Now I have California camarosa strawberries available to me locally and I am in berry heaven. Just yesterday I went to a festival in Santa Maria dedicated to the strawberry -- my kind of festival. There was strawberry tasting (and rating), strawberry shortcake, strawberry daquiris (and the most expensive non-alcoholic drink I have ever purchased, made with syrup instead of strawberries.... grrr), and strawberries to ride in. I left having learned something about the berry I so love and a new appreciation for the growing season and my relative geographical nearness to my favorite fruit.

While I doubt that grocery stores will soon be offering strawberries for sale by variety (considering they generally offer barely edible berries as it is), if you get the chance to sink your teeth into a camarosa or camino real variety of berry, I highly recommend it.

If you're stuck purchasing grocery store berries because no one grows them anywhere near you, let me make a few of my favorite serving suggestions: Use whipped cream or a light sprinkling of sugar on your berries. Slice them and add strawberry syrup and place over shortcake. Blend them into shakes, smoothies and daquiris. But my best advice would be to skip the grocery store and road trip to a roadside stand or local grower.

Then again, if you don't like strawberries, you just wasted three minutes of your life reading this. I'll get off the berries for the next blog, so come back for more jaded objectivity.

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