Visiting a strawberry farm with the California Strawberry Commission

In March, I was invited by the California Strawberry Commission to tour a strawberry farm. This invitation came about after I recently passed through Oxnard on a road trip, where there happen to be several of strawberry farms, and I shared a photo on Instagram and Twitter, asking whether there were any farms that gave tours. The fields and roadside strawberry stands in Oxnard reminded me of Irapuato, a central Mexican town best known for its strawberry fields and the quaint roadside stands where you can get fresh fresas con crema. I’m always interested in knowing about where my food comes from, and living in California, there’s an abundance of local, fresh produce year-round.  I was excited to visit a California strawberry farm and have the chance to ask the farmers questions about where my berries come from and how they’re grown. This post is sponsored by the California Strawberry Commission, but all experiences and opinions are my own.

On this visit, I learned that nearly 90 percent of strawberries grown in the U.S. come from California, and strawberries are grown here year-round (with a peak season in March and April) due to the optimal climate, sandy coastal soil and ocean exposure. There are more than 400 strawberry farmers who grow both conventional and organic berries, and California is also the biggest grower of organic strawberries worldwide. Oxnard, where the farm we visited is located, is about 60 miles from downtown Los Angeles.

California strawberry farm visit - More on theothersideofthetortilla.com

The farm that we visited was a family farm that has been farming in Ventura County, California, for more than 110 years. Farmers Edgar and William Terry gave us a tour of their farm, a chance to taste berries fresh from the field and ask questions—even the hard ones. Although the farm we visited was not an organic strawberry farm, I learned a great deal about the methods for growing strawberries and food safety issues (both food safety practiced in the field by the people picking your berries as well as pesticides used and how they affect our health), as well as who is growing and picking my strawberries…. 

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AGUA FRESCA: Agua de fresa y mango

Although May is National Strawberry Month, the grocery stores seem to suddenly be overflowing with ripe strawberries in the last week or so. We love strawberries in our house, but when you buy a few pounds of them at once because they’re inexpensive, what can you do with them other than eat them? Turn them into an agua fresca, of course! You want to be sure that your strawberries are red, ripe and fragrant to use them for this recipe. If they’re super sweet, you may want to decrease the amount of sugar in the simple syrup in the recipe; it’s a matter of personal taste how sweet you like the agua to be. Mango adds a sweet and summery twist to this classic agua de fresa recipe. If you don’t like mango, you can leave it out and increase the amount of strawberries by about one-third of a pound.

recipe_agua_de_fresa_y_mango_TOSOTT

A few notes about this recipe: This particular agua fresca is a little bit thicker consistency than others due to the mango flesh. You can dilute it with additional water if you like, but the consistency of the recipe written here makes it more Colima-style. You should use yellow mangoes rather than the green and magenta-colored ones (a variety called Tommy Atkins, mostly grown in Florida, and known in Spanish as petacón because of the big-bottomed shape) usually available in most grocery stores.

The yellow mangoes you’ll find in the U.S. are mostly Ataulfo mangoes and are very similar to Manila mangoes in taste and look, and both have very thin seeds, meaning you’ll get more mango flesh. (Manila are the yellow variety most commonly available in Mexico City that we’re used to eating when we’re there.) Both Ataulfo and Manila mangoes have sweet, creamy flesh that practically melts in your mouth and are not fibrous like the Tommy Atkins variety, which can be tough if not ripe or stringy due to the fibers. Ataulfo mangoes are in season from March to July; they should be yellow to yellow-orange in color with no black spots, and they’re perfectly ripe when the flesh gives a little (just like with a peach) and the skin starts to wrinkle just a bit…. 

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Highway fresas

I can’t help but feel a little jealous. This past weekend my suegros and my cuñada took a road trip from Mexico City to visit Abuelita Ana in Aguascalientes. I’m jealous for two reasons: one obviously being that they spent time with abue, whom I absolutely adore, but two, that they stopped for strawberries in Irapuato on the way back to El D.F. yesterday.

One of my favorite things from our road trip to Aguascalientes this past summer for abue‘s 90th birthday was the quaint little strawberry stands alongside the carretera in Irapuato. It was my first time road-tripping anywhere more than a a few hours outside of Mexico City, and I absolutely loved being able to see so much of the countryside, passing through towns I had previously only ever read about or heard about in stories from family members…. 

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