It’s May and the local strawberries are here! We love strawberry season, which typically hits the Napa Valley full stride in May, reminding us that summer is just around the corner. The days are definitely getting longer, the sun seems to be finally taking residence in the valley, and Napans are drying off the outdoor furniture and spending more time outside. It’s one of our favorite times of the year, and the abundance of strawberries is a part of that.

California is the nation’s leading producer of strawberries, and while most of the berries that are grown in Northern California are south of San Francisco, we have some delicious patches scattered throughout the counties north of the Bay. So while Watsonville and Salinas own bragging rights in terms of quantity, we think that some of the best strawberries are grown locally. Like grapes, strawberries love the northern California wine country. The ocean influence provides moderate temperatures with warm sunny days and cool foggy nights — the perfect combination for growing delicious, beautiful strawberries.

The total value of the California strawberry crop tops a whopping

$1 billion. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, strawberries are the seventh most valuable fruit crop produced in California (guess what is number one?), being grown on over 32,000 acres. That’s a lot of strawberries and a lot to enjoy.

We have included our recipe for the Model Bakery Strawberry Shortcake. When buying the berries for this recipe, remember local strawberries are fully ripe at the time they are picked and do not continue to ripen after picking. The berries you buy should have a bright red color, natural shine and fresh looking green caps, without “white shoulders.”

Refrigerate and keep them dry until just before you use them for this shortcake. By the way, our shortcake is basically a sweet biscuit — that is, a crumbly, baking soda or baking powder leavened bread. It is not one those spongy cakes you buy from a grocery store. Although strawberry is the most widely known shortcake dessert, you can also uses peaches,  blueberries and other fruits for similar desserts.

But now that May is here ... let’s take advantage and go for the strawberries.

Happy baking.

Model Bakery Shortcake   

Yields 12 cakes made with a 3-inch cutter.

3 cups pastry flour

1⁄2 cup sugar

1 1⁄2 Tbsp. baking powder

3⁄4 tsp. salt

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12 Tbsp. cold butter

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1 to 2 Tbsp. cream

Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in butter with fork or fingers — to make crumbly dough. Beat eggs and milk together. Add to flour mixture all at once and stir to combine. Bring dough together in one piece. Roll on floured surface to 1⁄2 inch thickness (or thicker if preferred). Cut shapes using 2-3 inch cutter. Arrange on lined baking sheet. Brush biscuits with cream (sprinkle with sugar optional).

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes (until golden brown). Split biscuits and fill with sugared strawberries and whipped cream.