Strawberry Fields Forever
“Strawberry Fields Forever”…This is the song that I kept humming to myself as I toured strawberry farms in Carmel and Watsonville, California. Come on; hum the song while you read this post. I can’t be the only one with this classic Beatles song stuck in my head.
California is the nation’s leading producer of strawberries. California has the perfect climate, especially in northern California. The mornings and evenings are brisk and the ocean breeze really makes this an ideal paradise for strawberries.
I have a whole new appreciation for strawberries after seeing the entire process of strawberry farming, picking, packing, shipping, and all the safety standards that are in place.
First of all, I just have to say we were very well taken care of by California Strawberries. We stayed at the beautiful Carmel Valley Ranch — This property was beyond breathtaking with beautiful old oak trees, aromatic lavender plants, and vineyards as the backdrop.
Once we checked in to our gorgeous suites we freshened up and met all the bloggers who were invited. We were welcomed with strawberry cocktails and amazing food all with a strawberry twist of course, and then we hung out at the pool as we chatted and enjoyed s’mores for dessert.
I could go on and on about the amazing events and accommodations so I’ll skip right to the strawberries.
The next morning we hopped on a bus and drove to Watsonville and met Ron Koda who owns this farm with his wife. His mother-in-law at age 65 started the farm and now it is a 3-generation family owned farm with more than 27-acres of strawberries. Most of the U.S. strawberries are grown in California by passionate farmers on multi-generation family farms like the Koda families.
I met so many talented and fun foodies!
Jodi (Garlic Girl), Mitzi (Nutrition Expert), Jill (The Veggie Queen),
Kristianne (My San Francisco Kitchen), Jennifer (Playful Pantry), Laura (Superglue Mom),
Jess (Sodium Girl), Kankana (Playful Cooking), Jennifer (Savory Simple), Amy (Cooking with Amy),
Nicole (Pinch My Salt), Claudya (Unknown Mami)
If you follow us on Facebook you might have asked me a strawberry question, so I’ll start by answering some of your questions and then I’ll add in a few other interesting facts about strawberries that you may or may not know.
What is the best way to freeze strawberries?
There are a few different ways to freeze strawberries. One popular method is to freeze whole without sugar to maintain shape and health benefits. Directions: After rinsing, gently blot dry and slice stem off at top of berry. Place cut side down on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper and place uncovered in freezer for a minimum of six hours. Transfer strawberries to a freezer bag or container. Frozen strawberries can be stored frozen for several months.
What is the best way to store strawberries?
For strawberries to stay fresh, do not wash them right away. Refrigerate them as soon as possible in the original clamshell or in a container with a dry paper towel at the bottom. Separate the berries by layering them with paper towels to maximize freshness. Just before using, wash strawberries with the caps attached under a gentle spray of cool water. For best flavor, serve strawberries at room temperature.
What is the best method for growing strawberries?
Growing strawberries as a hobby is very different from commercial strawberry production. Our advice is to contact your local nursery for growing tips.
How many pesticides are we eating each time we eat a strawberry?
It is estimated that a woman could consume over 2,000 servings of strawberries in one day without any effect. Check out this pesticide residue calculator.
Some other interesting things I learned while there:
- Did you know eight strawberries contain more vitamin C than an orange? They are low in sugar, with only about 50 calories; strawberries are a great source of fiber, folate and potassium.
- In California, strawberries grow all year long, not just during the summer!
- Strawberries are dynamite for diabetics. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) identified berries, including strawberries, as one of the top 10 superfoods for a diabetes meal plan.
- One cup of strawberries is a potent antioxidant that boosts production of collagen fibers that help keep skin smooth and firm.
I think the one thing that shocked me the most is that the strawberries are literally packaged for the store right there in the field by the field workers – I had no idea.
My next surprise was the timely process of it all. Once strawberries are picked they are rushed to a cooling facility where cold air is forced through the vents of the packaging. This whole time I thought the packaging was designed to rinse and strain the strawberries. Am I the only one who thought this?
Once the strawberries are precooled they are then packed into refrigerated trucks and on their way to grocery stores and markets around the world. So depending how far you live from California will determine arrival time. I thought that it was interesting that strawberries arrive sooner to Paris than New York because they are literally flown out the same day vs. the two-day drive to New York.
I’ve been asked — why California strawberries? Why not support your local farms or farmers markets? I’m a huge believer in supporting your local growers but after seeing the safety standards in place with California Strawberries I know that every container has been tracked and follows strict guidelines, and I can rest assured knowing they are safe.
I have a small garden in my backyard so I know we are always fighting insects, rodents, or birds, but I can’t even imagine having to deal with those issues when you own acres and acres of fields.
Did you know that every morning at some of the farms someone walks up and down each row to make sure that there are not any carcasses or animal remains or anything out of the ordinary around the strawberries? For example, if a dead bird is found on the ground they have to rope off the area and test the soil and plants to make sure nothing has been affected. Interesting right?
Also they have scientists constantly testing the leaves and fruit to see if any insects are affecting the plants. We learned what insects are threatening and what predator bugs they bring in to eliminate the issue.
I want to thank California strawberries for treating us like super stars at this first class event. Not only did we learn so much about strawberries but we also had fun sampling so many unique dishes made with strawberries. We even had the opportunity to act like “Iron Chefs” and come up with our own creations with the secret ingredient being strawberries (of course). I left California very inspired.
One of my favorite meals during my trip was this dish. It was perfectly grilled tri-tip steak topped with fresh strawberry pico de gallo, a side of spring salad with feta cheese and strawberries drizzled with balsamic, and a simple fruit salad. The strawberry salsa stole the show for me – it was spicy, bright, and exotic. This is definitely a creative and zesty salsa perfect as a topping on grilled steak, fish, chicken, or with a basket of tortilla chips.
I am honored that the California Strawberry Commission invited me to be a part of this event and asked us to join the California Strawberries Blogger Ambassador Program. Mil gracias to everyone at the California Strawberry Commission, Carmel Valley Ranch, farms, cooling plants, and of course all of my new foodie amigas for this fantastic experience.
Disclosure: I was invited by the California Strawberry Commission and was paid a stipend to write about my visit. The views and opinions expressed are purely our own and based upon our personal experiences. We are thrilled to partner with brands, which are an ideal fit.