Traveling to Florida is always a bit perplexing, foodwise. Has anyone else ever wondered how the sunny coast of California inspired smoothies and gourmet vegetarianism, while Florida is perfectly content with chain restaurants and a Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner? Add to that the fact that the state surrounded on three sides with water is a virtual wasteland when it comes to safe, sustainable seafood choices (as per Seafood Watch‘s handy iPhone app), and well, it can be easier to try not to think while eating out. (Gulf shrimp, when you can find them, appear to be the safest choice.) We didn’t even time our trip to catch a weekend farmers market, so a quick stop at a roadside stand promising Plant City strawberries was the extent of our local food foraging (well, aside from taking advantage of my sister’s citrus trees).
Plant City, Florida, is the winter strawberry capital of the world. While you can find Florida strawberries in supermarkets down here, the ones at the farmstand seemed fresher and juicier — without that telltale white top of berries picked before ripeness.
I picked up a couple quarts and made a pitcher of agua fresca back at the house. This is a fun project with kids, particularly if they’re old enough to safely hull strawberries. (If not, they can take a pass at plucking the stems at least.) Instead of lime juice, I used an orange from one of the trees at my sister’s house — one whose fruit tastes almost like a cross between a lime and an orange.
Recipe: Strawberry Agua Fresca
adapted from Cooking Light
- 6 cups hulled and quartered strawberries
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of the berries)
- 4 cups cold water
- 1/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
Instructions: In a tall pitcher, stir 1/4 cup sugar into the water until dissolved. Place strawberries in blender and blend until smooth. Pour into the pitcher. Stir in the orange juice, taste, and add additional sugar if desired. Chill in refrigerator several hours. Garnish glasses with a small strawberry, and enjoy! Makes 8 cups.
The finished drink was lighter than a smoothie, cool and refreshing, and a big hit with the kids. A sweet end to a day at the beach and a nice taste of things to come as our own berry season is just around the corner.