There’s good news about this year’s crop of strawberries. The area’s roadside stands are open and the berries are big, sweet and juicy.
How big? Don’t be surprised to find a few that are nearly the size of your palm.
“We had lots of rain and good weather and that has helped make some big fruit,” says Sarn Saechao of Saechao’s Fresh Strawberry Farms on Clinton Avenue, just west of Marks. “It’s going to be a good year for strawberries.”
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It is indeed. Growers in Fresno County, where a majority of the local strawberries are grown, are reporting heftier berries with good flavor. The county has 16 stands, including Simonian Farms at Jensen and Clovis avenues, that sell fresh strawberries alongside other vegetables and fruit.
Visitors to Saechao’s stand were impressed with the plump strawberries.
“Oh yes, these are very good-looking,” says Paula McDonald of Fresno. “I am going to be here at least twice a week, buying more berries.”
Although there are many different types of strawberries, the Valley’s small farmers primarily grow two varieties: the Chandler and the Albion.
The Chandler is preferred by those who like the dark color and intense strawberry taste. The Albion stores longer, has a firmer texture and is also sweet. Both can be used in recipes.
Daniel Saeteurn, of Saeteurn Family Farm, 690 W. Herndon Ave. in Clovis, grows both varieties of strawberries for his customers who are already making frequent stops to his family’s rustic stand.
If the weather remains favorable, Saeteurn says strawberry season will last into June and possibly into early July.
The longer the season, the better, says customer Joane Bettosini of Fresno.
Bettosini was so excited about the start of strawberry season that she stopped at the stand several times last week to check on the berries’ progress.
When asked how she enjoys eating her strawberries, the smiling Bettosini says: “With gusto, how else?”
When choosing strawberries, look for fruit that is bright red in color, has a sweet aroma and isn’t too soft, says farmer Sandy Yang.
Yang says to avoid strawberries that have a lot of white at the top of the berry, as those will be slightly underripe. Overripe berries will be squishy and have bruising.
Yang, whose fruit stand is on Fowler Avenue, just south Clinton, says that although it’s early in the season, it looks very promising, especially after three years of drought.
“We try very hard to grow the best strawberries and this year we have some really good fruit,” Yang says. “We will have a good supply.”
Homemade strawberry shortcake
Recipe by Nicole Lea Cross, Pinch My Salt.
4 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced
4-6 tablespoons sugar (adjust to suit your own taste)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
4 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup cold milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whipped cream (I prefer the real thing)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a medium bowl, stir together the strawberries and sugar. Set strawberries aside to macerate while you prepare the shortcakes. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and sugar. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, and working quickly, cut or rub the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk and vanilla all at once to flour mixture and stir until just combined.
Using a large spoon, drop mixture into four equal piles on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees. Remove biscuits to a rack and let cool for a few minutes. To serve, split a warm biscuit in two, spoon 1/4 of the berry mixture over the bottom half (make sure you include lots of the juice), top with whipped cream and the other half of the biscuit.
Spinach, basil, and strawberry summer salad
Recipe by Tawnie Kroll, Kroll’s Korner.
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons boysenberry preserves
1 teaspoon Sriracha, or another hot sauce you prefer
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cups baby spinach leaves
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 small red onion, halved and sliced thinly crosswise
1/2 cup walnuts
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
4 ounces apricot feta cheese
Combine vinegar, preserves, hot sauce, and olive oil in a small bowl or jar. Shake until combined and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix spinach, basil, onion, and walnuts. Drizzle dressing over lightly and toss to mix. Gently stir in strawberries and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Right before serving, top with the apricot feta.
Recipe by Gianna Dinuzzo, Giannamary.com.
2 cups strawberries, stemmed
1/2 large avocado
1/4 red onion
Small handful stemmed cilantro
1 lime, juiced
Salt, to taste
1 jalapeño (optional for a spicy salsa)
Drizzle of honey (optional for a sweeter salsa)
Finely dice the strawberries, avocado, red onion and jalapeño (if using). Place them in a small bowl, then gently combine with cilantro, fresh lime juice, honey (if using) and a pinch of salt.