If you love strawberries – and who doesn’t? – the place to be from late January through mid-April is Plant City, Florida.
This is the epicenter of ripe strawberries at a time when most of the U.S. is shivering through polar vortexes.
One especially interesting place to check out is the Parkesdale Farm Market, a 1950s-style throwback Florida produce market that grows its own berries and vegetables.
Located at 3702 W. Baker St., Plant City, just 35 minutes from Brunello Villa off Exit 17 of I-4, Parkesdale sells a lot of citrus, vegetables, gift candies, salsas, jellies and garden plants.
But its main claim to fame is its iconic strawberry shortcake.
People line up at the shortcake stand even before noon to scarf up one variation or another of this summerish treat with strawberries and a sweet biscuit/cake in the starring roles. Parkesdale staff churns them out factory-line style.
You can get one with or without ice cream, with or without whipped cream on top, or even without the cake if you’re more of a strawberry-sundae fan.
For that matter, you could order the equally delicious strawberry milkshake, which once earned the Food Network title as “Best Drinkable Dessert.”
Take home a fresh box or two of local berries while you’re at it and/or some boxes of shortcake mix so you can bake your own at home.
Parkesdale does such a thriving strawberry business in winter that more than half of its facility is devoted to picnic tables under roof.
While you’re enjoying your treat (or strawberry-shortcake lunch, as the case may be), get a photo of yourself wearing a crown on the market’s “strawberry throne.”
Yeah, it’s kitschy, but where else do you get to be honorary strawberry queen for a day?
The prices are reasonable, and you can pick up some fresh produce for dinners while you’re there.
And if you want some Florida citrus after you get home, Parkesdale ships boxes of assorted varieties. The market’s phone number is 813-752-0502.