Big, red and juicy Valley grown strawberries are making their way to your favorite roadside fruit stand or farmers market.
The much-anticipated berries are about a week early thanks to favorable weather, farmers say.
"We have a very good crop this year," says Daniel Saeteurn, whose family runs a produce stand near Herndon and Willow avenues in Clovis.
The berries are harvested daily and sold in small baskets for about $2. But few, if any, regular strawberry customers are satisfied with just one basket.
Sweet tasting, strawberries also pack a nutritional punch. They are loaded with essential vitamins, fiber and potassium.
"Are you kidding, I buy as many as I can," says Jackson Grode, of Madera, who visited Saeteurn's stand recently. "My goal is to get sick of eating strawberries this season."
What makes Valley grown strawberries different from grocery store berries?
For one, many Valley strawberry farmers grow the Chandler variety, a strawberry known for its sweet taste, but with a limited shelf life. The Albion, a sturdier variety, is also grown and can tolerate the Valley's warm temperatures. But for most strawberry lovers, storing the fruit isn't a problem.
"As soon as the strawberries come home, they get eaten," says Kristina Bonbrake of Clovis, who was recently buying strawberries at a stand on Herndon Avenue, just east of Tollhouse Road. "I have to stop and buy strawberries once a week."
For those unfamiliar with Valley grown strawberries, Fresno County has developed a list of the region's roadside stands at gofruittrail.com.
"They are a definitely a Valley favorite," says Kristi Johnson, tourism manager for the Fresno County Office of Tourism.
Here are some recipes:
Thai pork kebabs with California strawberry quinoa salad
1 cup hulled and quartered California strawberries
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound pork tenderloin, cut into 1/4-inch x 4-inch strips
1/4 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped, optional
1 lime, cut into wedges
16 bamboo skewers
1 recipe California strawberry quinoa salad,
Place strawberries, orange juice, cinnamon, cumin and cayenne pepper in the work bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. Pour into a medium mixing bowl. Add pork strips, stirring to coat all sides. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Immerse skewers in water for 20-30 minutes (this will keep skewers from burning).
Heat a grill or grill pan over medium high heat.
Thread pork onto skewers and grill for 3 minutes. Turn and grill for an additional 2-3 minutes or until cooked through.
Prepare California strawberry quinoa salad.
Serve kebabs over California strawberry quinoa salad.
Garnish with peanuts and serve with a lime wedge for squeezing.
Approximate nutritional values per serving: 534 calories; 22 grams fat; 107 milligrams cholesterol; 432 milligrams sodium; 42 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams fiber; 44 grams protein.
-- California Strawberry Commission California strawberry quinoa salad
For the dressing:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup hulled and quartered California strawberries
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
1 cup dry quinoa, cooked according to package directions and cooled
1/4 cup minced sweet yellow onion
1 cup finely shredded Napa cabbage
1/2 cup finely diced cucumber
1 cup diced California strawberries
To make the dressing, place all dressing ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.
Place quinoa in a large bowl. Add onion, cabbage, cucumber, strawberries and dressing, tossing gently to combine.
Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours.
Approximate nutritional values per serving: 228 calories; 8 grams fat; 0 cholesterol; 296 milligrams sodium; 34 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 7 grams protein.
-- California Strawberry Commission
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The reporter can be reached at (559)441-6327, email@example.com or @FresnoBeeBob on Twitter.