The latest news reports say that California's strawberry season -- which technically begins now even though we see delicious berries year round -- is about to contribute to a nationwide glut of strawberries. Florida's 2010 strawberry season, which was so abundant that farmers ended up letting crops rot in the field because berry prices were so low, is winding down right now and there will be a brief overlap of seasons between the states. Experts are predicting that this will create a brief window of opportunity for consumers as the price of strawberries dips into obscenely low levels. The glut is nothing to gloat about. It's great for the pocketbook of local strawberry lovers, but a giant bummer for local growers, especially at the local markets where the profit margin is already whisker thin.
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Luckily, the best way to do your part is to buy a couple of giant flats of our region's finest Albions, Camarosas, Seascapes, and Chandlers and dive into some of the most economical and tasty jam-making of the year. The Albion is the champion of consistency, rarely deviating from its almost mathematical conical shape, large size, and excellent sweet berry flavor. Camarosas, too, though they tend to have a heartier, meatier flesh than the Albion. Seascapes are big flavor berry with a really pleasing acidity and a deep scarlet color. But if it's old school, heirloom berry flavor that you like, sweet and tart and juicy to a fault, then the Chandler is your strawberry. It's a descendant of the Sequoia, which you will likely never see in a market as it starts desiccating the moment it is picked. But the Sequoia has a flavor profile unlike any other berry, and the Chandler was developed to trap that flavor in a more hardy fruit. You'll likely see them in market stalls in a few weeks.
And these are just a few, as there are many other California varieties that come in endless shapes and flavor profiles that deserve your attention as well. Your best bet is to get baskets of each as they come into season and taste test them among friends. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.