by COURTNEY LAWSON
Early spring in Florida means strawberry season! Whether you are in North, Central, or South Florida, there is a strawberry variety for you.
Although there are five types of strawberry commonly found in Florida, I will offer up some other varieties you may not have heard of and we will talk about which varieties are the easiest in a home garden setting. Some of the best varieties are Camarosa, Chandler, Festival, Oso Grande, and Selva. There is also a Native Florida variety Fragaria Virginiana, the fruit is small but very sweet and is loved by birds and mammals as well.
Garden centers have several varieties of strawberry in stock. If you are like me, you enjoy the plants not only for their fruit but also for their flowers.
The tiny blooms offer a sweet aesthetic to the garden and a nice pop of color. Although most strawberry blooms are white, there are also five varieties with pink flowers! One even offers a double-petaled flower called “Summer Breeze Rose” although it is a British variety that you must special order.
While Plant City is the Winter Strawberry Capital of the world, the first home garden strawberry was actually grown in the 18th century in Brittany, France. Although the Ancient Romans were known to use strawberries medicinally, it was wild harvested and not grown as a crop. The first known American species of strawberry was grown and harvested about 1835. At that point, the common name for them was “strewberries.” Eventually, they became known as strawberries. However it came about, the name stuck and strawberries became a popular choice for commercial purposes and home gardens everywhere.
Strawberries are often thought of as only a dessert fruit, but there are ways to use this fruit in savory dishes. Here are a few recipes to get you started!
Roast Chicken Strawberry Sandwich
Two pieces of good ciabatta toasted. In a bowl, combine Dijonaise and goat cheese, whisk together until a paste is formed. Then spread on the top piece of the bread.
Layer the slices of roast chicken and thinly sliced strawberries and arugula.
Roast Chicken With Strawberry Dijon Sauce
Place six skin-on chicken thighs in a baking pan lined with parchment paper, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Roast chicken thighs at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, in a food processor, place six strawberries, two tablespoons of Grey Poupon, one tablespoon of olive oil, one tablespoon of balsamic, a dash of salt, and six basil leaves. Blend until smooth. Once the chicken is cooked, pour sauce on top and serve warm. (Note that this is not a sweet sauce. It is spicy with a hint of strawberry overtone. If you prefer a sweeter taste, add more strawberries or substitute maple syrup for the balsamic.)
To make the dressing, combine 1 cup of strawberries , 2 tablespoons of strawberry white balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons lemon olive oil extra virgin, 1 teaspoon of Dijon, and a teaspoon of salt in a food processor and blend.
For the salad, I like to use a mixture of romaine and arugula, but you could use any salad mixture you like and a quarter of a Vidalia onion diced. Throw in some candied pecans and your choice of cheese. I find that Gorgonzola or goat cheese works the best. Top with the dressing and enjoy!