Miami Chefs Flock to Green Strawberries

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Green strawberries have appeared on Miami restaurant menus in force this season, and you can thank Palm Beach for it. 

Last year Daniel Boulud's Café Boulud requested some of the tart, unripe fruit from Jodi Swank's Loxahatchee farm. When the season closed in June, she and her husband Darrin sent a green-strawberry-adorned thank-you note to their chefs, setting off a rush for the on-trend ingredient. 

"With chefs, it's monkey see, monkey do," Swank quips. The pair's first year growing the fruits netted between 300 and 400 pounds with a couple of weeks left in the season.

They're appearing on menus at the Vagabond, in 50 Eggs' restaurants, at the Cypress Room, and at the Redlander Restaurant at Schnebly Redland's Winery. The appearance of this simple ingredient also has larger implications, as hypothesized by Food for Thought's David Rosendorf, who says the fruit indicates a closer link between chefs and farmers. More important, it's a boon for eaters and chefs throughout the region. It's an incubator for experimentation and innovation that should result in better, more nuanced meals.

In recent years, the fruit, often pickled to soften its unripe texture and mellow the flavor, began appearing on high-end menus around the world. Noma's Rene Redzepi fed Momofuku's David Chang a "perfectly unripe green strawberry" in one episode of PBS's Mind of a Chef. Though no chef can lay claim to inventing the ingredient — after all, anyone can pluck a strawberry before it morphs into a sweet ruby — it trickled through the Michelin ranks and outward to many farmers' markets and restaurants. 

"It's the same idea as green papaya," says Schnebly's Dewey LoSasso, who's been getting his from Knaus Berry Farm. "It's a completely different flavor with a little acidity."

The Vagabond's Alex Chang is pickling the berries in verjuice and deploying them on a dry-aged sirloin paired with a potato purée of miso, sour cream, and yuzu kosho. And though the sun's heat will soon be too much for the squat plants (locally, they go out of season in May), don't expect green strawberries to fall off menus soon.

"We're buying six quarts a week," Chang says, "and we're going to keep pickling them so we can have them around as long as possible."

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