It's strawberry time.
The much anticipated crop of Valley-grown strawberries is starting to make its way to more than two dozen stands, a few local grocery stores and farmers markets.
A handful of vendors opened last weekend and a majority are expected to start selling their plump, juicy berries this week.
As the weather warms, harvesting will hit its peak. And soon, the rustic roadside stands will be brimming with baskets of red berries.
Google map of Valley strawberry stands
View Strawberry stands in a larger map
Fresh and plump strawberries have become a Valley staple and signal the unofficial start of the spring and summer fruit season. Not far behind will be blueberries, blackberries, cherries and apricots.
"We have some really good quality strawberries this year," says Richard Molinar, a University of California farm adviser and strawberry expert.
Unlike large-scale strawberry growers on the Central Coast, who produce for major retailers, the Valley's crop is sold locally by small farmers. And they grow different – many say sweeter – varieties.
Much of what is grown in the Valley are the Chandler, Camarosa and Albion varieties. The strawberries differ slightly, but all are grown for their sweet flavor.
The Valley's strawberry season generally lasts about two and a half months, but growers are experimenting with new varieties that could extend the season.
Molinar advises strawberry lovers to be aware that the vendors selling on street corners and out of their cars or trucks are typically from the Central Coast.
"The berries may look big and ripe," he says, "but they are not as flavorful and they were not grown here."
For those who don't have a favorite vendor, the Fresno County Office of Tourism is putting together a map showing the area's fruit stands, including those selling strawberries. The Fresno County Fruit Trail map can found at gofresnocounty.com. To view The Bee's strawberry stands Google map Click here.