The same freeze that ravaged the Florida orange crop this year (projected to drop by 19% over 2009 levels) is leading to the best deal on strawberries in many years for consumers. The cold weather delayed the Florida crop so that it has overlapped the California harvest, causing such a drop in prices that some growers claim it costs more to pick them than they can recoup when selling them.
In late March, the USDA reported that eight-pound lots of strawberries, which had been bringing as much as $18.90 in early February, were selling for as little as $5.90. My local Ohio grocer is offering two pints of organic strawberries for $5 this week.
One grower in Plant City, Fla. Wishnazki Farms, actually opened up its fields for a free pick-your-own harvest, to the benefit of a local not-for-profit that collected over $6,000 in donations from those who took advantage of the free pick. Other growers have let their crops rot on the vine.
How can you take advantage of the deals being offered in local groceries? One of my favorites is freezer jam, which avoids all that messy pouring of wax caps. By the same process you can make a killer ice-cream topping by thinning down the mix.
One WalletPop writer took her bounty and managed to make strawberry tacos (or galettes, if you're more Martha).
Or you could simply slice, sugar, and freeze the fruit. You may be glad you did, with the jump in citrus prices thanks to the freeze, and the potential effect of the Chile earthquake on imports from that country, including off-season grapes, kiwis, plums, peaches and apples.
Strawberry prices at rock-bottom: stock up now