When I moved from Seattle to California, I quickly learned about the various regions here. I fell in love with San Diego's laid-back style, the buzzing culture of Los Angeles and tech happenings up near San Francisco. I was fascinated by the often-overlooked area from Bakersfield up through Fresno. I'd pass through this region weekly, looking out at the workers in the field. “Why are California strawberries planted here in particular? What is so special about this area?”
Small farms dot the landscape up in the Pacific Northwest, but California's Central Valley engulfs them entirely. It's hard to explain the vastness of agriculture here to someone who hasn't experienced it firsthand.
Acre upon acre of neatly-packed vegetation are descended upon seasonally by immigrant workers. They pick and pack in harmony up and down the coast, directing food from the farm to our dinner table.
Growers flock here from around the world to take advantage of our sandy soil and western exposure. California strawberries grow between ten and twenty times more abundantly than in other states. But it comes at a cost – we've personally explored California's water crisis a number of times and have been hit with skyrocketing prices in recent months, raising the stakes for investors and shoppers everywhere.
Exploring California Strawberries
Nate and I took the family up to Oxnard last weekend to further explore with the California Strawberries Commission. While we were at it, we did a little taste-testing Be on the lookout in the coming weeks as I share some of my favorite recipes using California strawberries here on the blog!
We tried Italian soda with California strawberries.
Mango salsa with California strawberries.
Even strawberry bruschetta and burgers with strawberry jam.
As much as I love the taste-testing aspect of any farm visit, my favorite part is always the chance to sit down one-on-one with the knowledgeable farmers.
Edgar Terry of Terry Berries shared that there are currently no GMO strawberries in stores. All breeding is done by naturally crossing flower varieties. But that doesn't mean California strawberries are old-fashioned! They go through an extensive journey, starting three to five years ahead of time as stems from existing plants in the variety selection process. Once a variety has been named, new strawberry plants are grown in greenhouses and fields throughout the Central Valley. Then, young plants are sent up to high elevation nurseries in northern California for some cold exposure to boost production and initiate flowering before finally being sent back down for planting in the warm fields of the Central Coast. Strawberry farmers use organic or conventional methods to fight off Fusarium Wilt, a soil rot disease that stymies farmers.
Edgar shared that it is critical to question where your fruit comes from. Farmer's markets can be deceitful, with vendors often buying produce at the grocery store and passing it off as their own. Wherever you buy your produce from, ask about the variety and the location of the grower, and request to see organic certification if applicable. Farmer's market vendors should be able to tell you the exact address and name of the grower. In the grocery store, I try to stick with products grown in California (exceptions obviously being made for national and international specialties that aren't grown here) because I know that we have some of the strictest agriculture regulations in the United States.
Do you take note of where your produce is grown? Have you ever tried California strawberries?