Cakes, pastries in the spotlight at the Benguet strawberry festival

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BERRY MEAT | The “berrylicious burgers,” featuring a beef patty with strawberry sauce and served in strawberry buns, are a hit during the revival of the Strawberry Festival in Benguet’s capital, La Trinidad. The burger, created by LMT Breads and Pastries, is selling for P65. —EV ESPIRITU

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet, Philippines — Cakes, pastries and even burgers made with strawberries or flavored with strawberries were on display again last week after a two-year break from celebrating this city’s strawberry festival in due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Like the neighboring city of Baguio, The Trinity relaunched the festival that honors one of its most profitable crops to kickstart its economic recovery, Mayor Romeo Salda said Friday.

The burger, cheese and lettuce were slapped between two strawberry buns, an idea brought to life by local baker Laarni de los Santos of LMT Breads and Pastries, whose ‘berrylicious burger’, for P65, became a hit instantaneous.

The Baker’s Cravings store sold dried berries as part of a mixed fruit bag for P120, while Valley Bread, a local bakery, sold P20 Strawberry Swirls and their popular P1 640 ‘Very Strawberry Cake’.

In front of the town hall, an exhibition of homemade strawberry-shaped cakes was inspired by the giant 9.6-ton strawberry cake, the main attraction of the pre-pandemic festival celebrations which had earned this capital of Benguet a world record Guinness in 2004 for baking the cake. biggest strawberry shortcake.

The local baking community hoped the city would be pandemic-free by 2023 so they could make another giant strawberry shortcake that could break new world records, Salda said.

Salda said tourists were once again allowed to visit and pick berries from the city’s Strawberry Farm. Benguet normally produces 1,175 tonnes of berries each year on around 65 hectares of land dedicated to cultivation.

The berries are shipped with salad vegetables like carrots, cabbage, beans, lettuce and cauliflower to lowland markets. Benguet and the gardens along the borders of Mountain Province produce 80 percent of Metro Manila’s daily upland vegetable supply.

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But the municipality is starting from scratch as pandemic restrictions begin to ease, the mayor said.

“We were hit by typhoons in November last year and lost all our strawberry plants when our strawberry farm was flooded,” Salda said.

The crops on display last week were grown using seedlings provided by Benguet State University and the Department of Agriculture, he said.

The reopening of the festival had to deal with inflation triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine which affected fuel prices, said Nida Organo, La Trinidad’s senior agronomist.

She said participating bakers have had to contend with rising flour and sugar prices.

Food producers in Benguet are also reeling from the flood of foreign, imported and smuggled crops being investigated by the Customs Bureau in Iloilo and Cebu, Salda said, citing a message from the intelligence officer of the Customs Jeoffrey Tacio.

Trinidad has not quantified its losses due to the pandemic.

As of March 16, La Trinidad had only one active case of COVID-19, out of 11,454 infections recorded since 2020. The city and the rest of Benguet are still under Alert Level 2.

—EV ESPIRITU

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