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It’s Almost Strawberry Season!

Submitted by on September 28, 2009 – 9:44 pmNo Comment

Sunny Ridge StrawberriesBy Susan McKee
The Road Trips Foodie

Yes, Road Trip Foodies: you read that right. In Australia, strawberry season is November through April. Remember your geography lessons? If it’s fall in the Northern Hemisphere, where the US is located (!), it’s spring in the Southern Hemisphere. So, if you crave those luscious red ripe fruits, begin planning your trip Down Under right now. A must-stop is Sunny Ridge, a strawberry farm and fruit winery on the Mornington Peninsula of the province of Victoria (about an hour’s drive south of Melbourne).

When I was there, I was startled to learn that growers in Oz produce more than just one kind of strawberry. Taste-testing different varieties: Majestic, Albion and the Cal Giant, showed me how much variation there could be in deliciousness (Majestic is my favorite!). Sunny Ridge, in addition to welcoming visitors, produces some 3 million punnets of strawberries per year, and exports ’em around the globe. (A punnet is one of those little pint-sized baskets you typically see in stores, filled with berries.) (Below, right: that’s Mick Gallace, the owner, checking one of his berries for taste.)

(Photo by Susan McKee)

(Photo by Susan McKee)

But, of course, strawberries aren’t all they grow (the Gallace family has been doing this since 1964). Sunny Ridge also produces avocados, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, green beans, corn, tomatoes, peas and pumpkins. Just now, we’re coming into “pick-your-own” season for strawberries, raspberries, cherries and peas — picking season usually begins in early November and runs through April. If you don’t want to get out into the fields, you can do as I did — and enjoy afternoon tea in the Strawberry Café. You’ll have your choice of desserts and ice creams (made with fresh strawberries, of course) or you can go with the traditional tea menu featuring homemade scones, double-tick cream and Sunny Ridge Strawberry Jam.

Rebello WinesBeyond the fresh fruit, there are the wines. Matt and Ruth Gallace founded Rebello wines in 1990, and now produce 14 styles. Most distinctive is the Charlotte: a sparkling wine made 100% from Sunny Ridge strawberries. But, then, there’s the Fragola Cielo, a strawberry liqueur that mixes into extremely tasty cocktails when it’s not being enjoyed as a dessert wine. And, Fragola Amore, a strawberry cream liqueur, described as “silky smooth and seductively creamy”. Hmmm. Think I need to consider returning to Australia this spring!

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