The sun is shining on California strawberry farmers. First shipments of their spring crop are heading east. Producers say this could be the season to remember. Last year, cold and rain delayed the crop.

The sun is shining on California strawberry farmers. First shipments of their spring crop are heading east.

Producers say this could be the season to remember. Last year, cold and rain delayed the crop. This time, there’s nothing but sun and warmth, sending the plants from blossoms to berries in 30 days. Record crops are forecast.

The California volume climbs rapidly this month and hits peak production in April. Chris Christian, California Strawberry Commission vice president, is promising “plenty of fruit.”

Farmers have planted 38,373 acres of berries. Districts are timed to ensure ripe berries all season. They produced 178 million trays last season. Baja California and Mexico shipped nearly 20 million trays last year. Most of it was handled by California distributors.

Farmers will be keeping an eye on early blooms, which could be damaged by frost or hail storms. Rhubarb season soon begins, giving an opportunity for a favorite old-time combination:

STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB PIE

 2 cups rhubarb, sliced
 2 cups fresh strawberries
 1 cup sugar
 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
 3 tablespoons instant tapioca

Stir ingredients together, and let stand for 30 minutes. Spoon into a 9-inch unbaked crust. Cover with top crust, and bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Reduce heat to 350, and bake for another 40 to 45 minutes. Allow pie to cool for 45 minutes before slicing. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Makes 6 servings.