Henry Lopez of Fresno has been paying close attention to the activity in the strawberry fields near his northeast Fresno home. He waits patiently, as most of us do, for the picking to begin and the rickety roadside stands to open.
His wait is over as some of the central San Joaquin Valley’s strawberry growers have just begun harvesting their prized berries. Big, firm and sweet, local strawberries are one of the region’s favorite springtime fruits.
“This is my season,” Lopez says with glee. “I can’t get enough of strawberries.”
Lopez was buying a half box – six baskets – of strawberries from Heulong Siong’s stand on the northeast corner of Willow and Behymer avenues. Siong was one of the first farmers to open for the season.
“We are lucky to live in an area where we have some many great fresh fruits, especially strawberries,” Lopez says.
Siong, a strawberry grower for 24 years, says the season is shaping up to be a good one with berries available through June, as long as weather conditions remain favorable.
Too much rain can be a problem, especially if the berries sit in standing water. Siong hopes the heavy rains are over.
“We have enough rain for now,” he says. “No more, until next year.”
Although there are many different types of strawberries, the Valley’s small farmers prefer 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.
To find a strawberry stand nearby, go to www.gofruittrail.com for a list of places that sell strawberries and other fresh fruits and vegetables. The fruit trail map is compiled by the Fresno County Office of Tourism.