Strawberries thrive along California’s coast because western ocean exposure and Pacific winds insulate the fields from extreme temperatures and weather, providing ideal conditions for growing strawberries year-round.
Peak strawberry season occurs in April, May and June, with harvests of about 50 million pounds per week. All strawberries are picked, sorted and packed in the field by hand. Within 24 hours these strawberries are on their way to your local farmers’ markets to ensure the highest quality at the peak of freshness.
This luscious fruit can be traced as far back as the Romans. The most common explanation of how strawberries go their name is that children in the nineteenth century threaded the berries onto straw and offered them for sale.
Fresh strawberries began to flourish in California in the late 1950’s due to improved agricultural technologies. California strawberry farmers were also one of the first agricultural groups to adopt innovative drip irrigation technology for water conservation.
California produces 88% of the nation’s fresh and frozen strawberries, harvesting over a billion pounds of fruit annually. The leading counties in strawberry production include Santa Barbara, Ventura, Orange, San Diego, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Fresno, and San Luis Obispo.
Your local farmers’ market has wonderful fat juicy strawberries for your brunch recipes, dinner desserts, or for just plain snacking. Yum! Strawberries are picked at their peak and do not ripen after harvesting, so select berries that are bright red in color and that have a natural sheen with fresh looking green caps. Avoid strawberries with green or white tips. If boxed in cardboard or other paper products, pay particular attention to any dampness and/or staining, especially at the bottom of the container. This may be evidence of significantly overripe, even decaying fruit. Store strawberries in the refrigerator in a single layer on a paper towel in a moisture-proof container. Eat them within 48-72 hours, or freeze them. Do not wash them until you are ready to eat them, or they will become too soft.
Here’s a great recipe for a brunch using fresh California strawberries.
3 ounces 1/3-fat cream cheese, softened
8 ounce container strawberry low-fat yogurt
½ teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups strawberries, sliced, stems removed
Sugar to taste
Sprinkle of cinnamon
In a medium size bowl, add the yogurt and cream cheese. Mix with an electric mixer until smooth. Then add the lemon juice and mix well. In another bowl add as much sugar to the strawberries as you like, around 1/2 to 1 teaspoon. Add a little butter to a frying pan and heat to medium. Place a tortilla on top of the butter and work it around to cover the tortilla with butter as it melts. Place another slice of butter on top of tortilla. Turn the tortilla over when it browns. The butter will cook into the tortilla. Don’t let the tortilla get too crispy. You will be rolling them with the filling inside. When the first tortilla is done, remove it to a plate to cool. Cook the next tortilla the same way adding butter as needed.
When the tortillas are done, add a couple of spoonfuls of the yogurt mixture to each tortilla down their centers. Lay slices of strawberries on top of the yogurt mixture and sprinkle with a little cinnamon. Roll each tortilla up with the seams facing down. Add the rest of the yogurt mixture on top of the crepes and add the remaining slices of strawberries. Top with an additional sprinkle of cinnamon. Serves 2.
Visit the California Strawberry Commission at www.calstrawberry.com for more information and recipes.