Wrapping up the Season

/, Sue's Corner/Wrapping up the Season

“That’s a wrap.” We’ve come to the official end of the 2014-2015 Florida winter strawberry season, and it’s been one huge production!

This year we celebrated the strawberry harvest at the 80th Florida Strawberry Festival, which drew more than 517,000 people this year, according to festival officials.

Everyone, including yours truly, enjoyed the entertainment, carnival rides, exhibits, and, of course, the food. As usual, FSGA sponsored the best flat competition, and Jammer, FSGA’s mascot, was a hit with kids of all ages!

In February and March, we continued our taste test study in conjunction with the Florida Strawberry Research and Education Foundation in our pursuit of even sweeter berries.

I traveled to Birmingham, Ala., and Nashville, Tenn., where food writers, photographers, magazine editors, test kitchen and other culinary pros tasted and rated two different berries for us.

In Birmingham our host was Hoffman Media’s Brooke Bell, editor of Taste of the South magazine. In Nashville, the staff of the Athlon Media Group helped us to set up our taste test in a food photography studio.

The company publishes “Relish” and “Spry” newspaper inserts, among others, and has a combined circulation of more than
43 million.

During the season, I was also lucky enough to be on both sides of the kitchen counter – as a student and a teacher. Of course, strawberries were the subject!

I loved being the student of Virginia Willis, celebrity chef, author of numerous cookbooks, a FoodNetwork.com columnist and contributing editor to Southern Living. She was the featured chef at a cooking class hosted by the Rolling Pin Emporium in Brandon, Fla. She made some amazing dishes, including cream cheese brownies with fresh Florida strawberries.

We were also thrilled that Virginia agreed to participate in our strawberry taste test research. While she was in town, she visited the fields, and FSGA was excited to sponsor her appearance on “Daytime.” The lifestyle show is produced in Tampa, Fla., and is syndicated to more than 130 markets nationwide. She whipped up her Brown Sugar Strawberry Shortcakes (using Florida berries, of course) from her newest cookbook, Lighten Up, Y’all.

As teacher, I appeared at the Orlando Public Library’s Cuisine Corner demonstration night. I made one of my favorites, Florida Strawberry Spinach Salad. I was able to share not only the recipe, but also lots of information about our unique winter crop of berries.

And, speaking of a big production, we also managed to shoot several new videos that will be added to the Strawberry Sue website soon. The videos include some really yummy recipes and some great consumer education topics. Stay tuned.

Whew! I can’t believe the season is over, and that we got so much accomplished! Of course, our work is never done, and we’ll keep telling the Florida winter strawberry story. This newsletter is full of additional news about our season and the exposure we garnered for our beautiful berries. I hope you enjoy it and find something that will entice you to look for and use Florida strawberries the next time they hit the produce shelves.

Remember, we ship our amazing berries from November through March (and sometimes later) to locations east of the Mississippi and from Florida north through parts of Canada.