This Strawberry & Gorgonzola Salad (recipe below) is just one delicious and healthful suggestion available at floridastrawberry.org. Feb. 27 is National Strawberry Day. / Courtesy Florida Strawberry Growers Association

Who doesn’t lo-o-ove fresh strawberries, either straight off the runner (it’s not a vine) or right out of the container? Or even frozen ones — in, say, ice cream or a daiquiri? Well, Tuesday, Feb. 27, is National Strawberry Day, so buy some, and eat them, to celebrate.

If you really like strawberries, the Florida Strawberry Growers Association offers free recipes on its website and sells this cookbook ($25). Visit floridastrawberry.org.


Here are five fun facts about Fragaria (the fruit’s scientific name). The 600 different varieties have various suffixes: Fragaria vesca, for example, is the wild strawberry.

Five fun facts about strawberries

1) The strawberry is not, technically, a berry. That’s because its seeds are on the exterior. There are 200 seeds on the average strawberry.

2) Those 200 seeds, known as “achenes,” are the actual fruits; and each one can grow into a new strawberry plant.

The actual fruits — the seeds — are on the exterior of the strawberry. / J.D. Vivian

3) The Winter Strawberry Capital is Plant City, Fla., about 25 miles north of Tampa in Hillsborough County. Over three-fourths of the nation’s midwinter strawberries come from Plant City, which also hosts the Florida Strawberry Festival (source: www.plantcitygov.com). The festival this year runs from Thursday, March 1, to Sunday, March 11. For more information, visit flstrawberryfestival.com.

4) Strawberries are grown around the world, as well as in every U.S. state and Canadian province. (Of course, Florida has a distinct advantage during the cold months over anyone who wants to grow these fruits in, say, Minnesota.)

World record set in Plant City in 2017

5) The Guinness world record for the World’s Largest Smoothie was set in March 2017 in Plant City, during the 82nd annual Florida Strawberry Festival.

More than 100 employees and volunteers — from the Cabot Creamery Co-operative, United Food Bank of Plant City, Feeding Tampa Bay and United Way Suncoast — used 250 gallons of Cabot Vanilla Bean Greek Yogurt; 2,000 pounds of fresh Florida strawberries, most from Plant City; 3,375 pounds of ice; and 265 pounds of Cabot Whey protein powder.

That eclipsed the former record of 824.7 gallons, held by McGill University of Toronto, Canada. (For the entire story, visit floridafoodandfarm.com/featured/worlds-largest-smoothie-made-florida-strawberry-festival.)

(Editor’s note: Despite the large agricultural industry in Hillsborough County, Plant City got its name from Henry Bradley Plant. In 1884, Plant extended the South Florida Railroad into what was originally called Ichepucksassa. In 1885, when the city incorporated, it was named in honor of Plant.)

Recipe for Strawberry & Gorgonzola Salad
(Courtesy Florida Strawberry Growers Association)

Florida strawberries are especially sweet and juicy, which makes them go great with leafy greens and intense cheeses like gorgonzola. The citrus-bright flavor of the berries cuts right through the crumbly bite of the rich cheese, and the walnuts give a smooth, smokey flavor to the salad.

Featuring iron-rich spinach, vitamin-rich strawberries and an apple, healthy fats and proteins in the walnuts, and a touch of gorgonzola, this is one salad you can feel good about eating — without sacrificing any flavor.

Ingredients
6 cups fresh spinach
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1 apple, sliced thin
4 tablespoons of your favorite vinaigrette

Directions
Toss all ingredients; serve immediately.

NUTRITIONAL HIGHLIGHTS

Strawberries (raw), 1 cup (sliced)

  • Calories: 53
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Carbohydrates: 13 g
  • Total fat: 0 g
  • Dietary fiber: 3 g

* For a complete breakdown, visit Food-A-Pedia

GARDENING TIPS

Strawberries can be grown throughout Florida via transplants: Sept. 15-Oct. 15 in North Florida, Sept. 15-Oct. 25 in Central Florida, and Oct. 1-Dec. 1 in South Florida. Space plants 12 to 16 inches apart.

Recommended varieties include Chandler, Oso Grande, Sweet Charlie, Selva, Camarosa and Festival. Other varieties might produce well also; however, make sure transplants are adapted to Florida. Suggestions are based on availability, performance and pest resistance.

Harvest is 30 to 60 days after transplant. Strawberries are ready to harvest when three-quarters of the berry’s surface is red. Once the fruit is completely red, it rots quickly, so harvest regularly — usually, every two to four days. Strawberries belong to the Rosaceae family.

BUYING & STORAGE TIPS

Dry, firm, fully ripe berries taste best. Caps should be green and fresh looking. A stained box may indicate that some of the berries in it are overripe. Strawberries will not ripen further after being picked, so a green or dull berry will remain green or dull.

U-pick tips (courtesy extension.illinois.edu):

The surest way to pick fruit with a minimum of bruising is as follows:

  1. Grasp the stem just above the berry, between the forefinger and the thumbnail, and pull with a slight twisting motion.
  2. With the stem broken about one-half-inch from the berry, allow it to roll into the palm of your hand.
  3. Repeat these operations using both hands until each holds three or four berries.
  4. Carefully place — don’t throw — the fruit into your containers. Repeat the picking process with both hands.
  5. Don’t overfill your containers or try to pack the berries down.

    Another method may be used with some varieties that cap easily. Picking berries without the calyx, or cap, will result in some bruising but is satisfactory for berries that will be processed soon after picking.

  1. Grasp the stem between the thumb and forefinger just behind the cap.
  2. Squeeze slightly against the cap and apply slight pressure against the berry with the second finger. The berry should pull loose, leaving the cap on the stem.
Tips for Strawberry Pickers

Whether you pick strawberries from your own garden or at a pick-your-own farm, here are a few tips:

  1. Be careful that your feet and knees do not damage plants or fruit in or along the edge of the row. At a U-pick farm, it is important that you pick only on the row assigned to you.
  2. Most growers furnish picking containers designed for strawberries. If you use your own container, remember that heaping strawberries more than 5 inches deep will bruise the lower berries.
  3. Pick only the berries that are fully red. Part the leaves with your hands to look for hidden berries ready for harvest.
  4. Pick the row clean. Remove from the plants berries showing rot, sunburn, insect injury or other defects and place them between the rows behind you.
  5. Berries to be used immediately may be picked at any time. But if you plan to hold the fruit for a few days, try to pick in the early morning or on cool, cloudy days. Berries picked during the heat of the day become soft, are easily bruised and will not keep well.
  6. Avoid placing the picked berries in the sun any longer than necessary. It is better to put them in the shade of a tree or shed than in your car’s trunk or on a car seat. Cool them as soon as possible after picking. Strawberries may be kept fresh in the refrigerator for three or more days, depending on the initial quality of the berry. After a few days in storage, however, the fruit loses its bright color and fresh flavor and tends to shrivel.
  7. Give the harvested fruit a soft ride home.