Although strawberries can be grown anywhere in the United States, California produces the most: 80 percent of commercial strawberries are grown here! Local berries from Salinas and Watsonville, are available from early spring to late fall; and now we are at peak season!
Choose wisely…According the Environmental Working Group – a consumer advocacy group that monitors pesticide levels on foods to ensure that pesticides used in our food system are not harming our most vulnerable populations (infants and children) – strawberries are the most contaminated fresh fruit. Imagine how pests must love their beautiful color and sweet taste; just like we do! The pesticides used on conventionally-group strawberries are applied topically, but also in the soils and the chemicals are drawn up in the plants and fruit from the roots, so even though you wash the berries well, they are still be imbedded with the chemicals. So, always buy organic strawberries, if at all possible. For other recommendations, see their “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists.
Those of us in the 24/680 corridor are VERY fortunate to live near the largest and most fertile agricultural growing region in the history of the world – the San Joaquin Valley! I always promote local, seasonal, wholesome selections. Check the labels – no strawberries in January; probably imported from Mexico, and no Nectarines in December; probably imported from Chile. We call that the carbon footprint – energy it requires to deliver by boat or plane vs. a truck from Brentwood.
“The Dirty Dozen” Buy Organic – Most Commonly Contaminated
Strawberries, Pears, Nectarines, Peaches, Apples, Spinach, Cherries, Potaoes, Sweet Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, Celery and Grapes
“The Clean Fifteen” Conventional OK – Least Commonly Contaminated
Onions, Mangoes, Papaya, Sweet Corn, Eggplant, Kiwi, Pineapple, Cantaloupe, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Avocado, Asparagus, Sweet Peas (Frozen), Cabbage, Honeydew Melon
Source: Environmental Working Group, 2018
Strawberries with Cream Biscuits and Chantilly Cream
For the Strawberries:
- Two 1-pint baskets strawberries (about 4 cups)
- 1/4 cup, plus 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Powdered sugar for dusting
For the Cream Biscuits:
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 big pinch of salt
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
- 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
• Prepare the Biscuits: Preheat the oven to 400˚F. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or knives, until most of the pieces of the butter are pea-size or smaller. Stir in the cream, a couple of tablespoons at a time, until the mixture just comes together. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface, and draw in all the dried ingredients and press the dough together, being careful to not overwork. Pat into a round and using a rolling pin, roll the dough to approximately 2/3-inch thick. Using a 3-inch round pastry cutter, cut into six 3-inch round biscuits, re-rolling the scraps, if necessary. *Once you roll out the dough, best to test with a cutter to ensure you can get 6 biscuits from the batch, and roll thinner, if necessary.
• To bake, place the biscuits on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, and brush the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons of cream. Bake for 17 minutes, until golden.
• While the biscuits are baking, hull and slice (from stem down) the strawberries; place in a bowl and toss with 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Mashed about 1/2 cup of the strawberries (I prefer to use a NutraBullet to purée the small amount of strawberries) and stir into the bowl of sliced berries. Allow the strawberries to macerate for 20 minutes.
• Whip the cream in a medium stainless bowl with a whisk until just soft; avoid over-whipping as the cream will curdle – whip just until the cream forms a soft, silky consistency. Fold in 2 tablespoons powdered sugar and stir in the vanilla.
• To assemble the dessert: Carefully, split the biscuits in half. Place the bottom biscuit on a plate, cover with a scoop of strawberries and a dollop of cream, top with the other half of the biscuit, and dust with powdered sugar.
• Serve immediately.
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