By Romney Steele

A strawberry day: California is the leading grower of strawberries nationwide and, according to the California Strawberry Commission, they grow year round in our sunny state. Certainly they do, but if you’re looking for locally grown, organic or unsprayed strawberries (which I recommend), the season is right about now. In fact, a news report points to the fact they are a little late in their arrival, due to the recent spate of storms. As the days warm up, though, we will see a spike in local production, and more choices and variety from a range of vendors. Enjoy them while you can.

Local favorite: Santa Cruz County’s Swanton Berry Farm, a favorite of market-goers, is producing some lovely gems, as usual. Find them at the Tuesday or Saturday Berkeley Farmers Market.

Buying and storing: Strawberries are the perfect fruit for eating out of hand, adding to the breakfast line-up, or turning into a simple dessert: try sprinkled with a smidge of sugar and fresh cream poured over the top. When buying strawberries, look for bright red, fully ripe, and unblemished fruit. Size does not necessarily equate to flavor or sweetness — ask your market vendor for a sample before purchasing if possible. Store berries in a single layer, preferably on a paper towel, and refrigerate, 2-3 days maximum. See Molly Watson’s complete guide to local strawberries here.

Berkeley Farmers Markets take place on Tuesdays, 2-6pm, at Derby Street @ MLK Jr. Way; Thursdays, 2-6pm, at Shattuck @ Rose Street; and on Saturdays, 10am-3pm, at Center Street @ MLK Jr. Way.

Romney Steele is a freelance writer, cook and artist, and the author of My Nepenthe. Read her previous Market Reports on artichokes and asparagus.

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