for strawberries! In recent years, several small strawberry growers have sprung up in our little corner of California, perhaps inspired by an article a decade or two ago in Organic Gardening about how profitable strawberry growing can be. These patches are usually only 1-4 acres, located right next to a highway or main road through a rural portion of the landscape, with a pullout and fruit stand to make it easy for the customer. Occasionally, I will still see "U-Pick" patches, but I suspect that the issues of insurance and liability in California are helping to make these operations endangered, if not extinct.
The ever-bearing kind of strawberries can produce throughout the late spring and summer on a small patch, and even though my permaculture background doesn't readily agree with monoculture, I can see that this method works for the small-scale commercial grower. My co-worker and I stopped at a stand about 20 miles from home, following a lengthy meeting in Sacramento last week, and the heady fragrance of ripe berries hit us as we stepped out of the car.
I bought a half-flat and went right home to wash and core half of those to freeze. Of course, we could quickly eat the rest, and I had my son and daughter pick up another half-flat on their way over from Chico to spend part of the Memorial Day weekend with us. We feasted on berries and ice cream (from Crystal in Sacramento, within my range, but using some ingredients that aren't, no doubt), and sourdough pancakes with strawberries on top. My method of freezing was learned from an organic raspberry grower in our area, many years back. She recommended laying out the washed and cored berries on cookie sheets to freeze, then once frozen, dumping them into storage containers. This method keeps each individual berry frozen and makes it easier to separate out what you need.
The last of this batch (now totaling one whole flat) was cooked up on Monday, with local honey, to make strawberry syrup which will keep in the fridge for the next few batches of pancakes. I will be buying and processing strawberries in small batches throughout the next month or two, in hopes of having enough frozen in advance to get me through the winter. I like to use berries in smoothies for breakfast, and one of my ELC goals is to collect and freeze enough of the various kinds that grow around me that I won't need to buy any next year! In parting, I will leave you with this quote, from Alison Luterman, "What They Came For", which made its way into my life courtesy of The Sun -
Strawberries are too delicate to be picked by machine. The perfectly ripe ones even bruise at too heavy a human touch. It hit her then that every strawberry she had ever eaten - every piece of fruit - had been picked by calloused human hands. Every piece of toast with jelly represented someone's knees, someone's aching back and hips, someone with a bandanna on her wrist to wipe away the sweat. Why had no one told her this before?
Birdsong lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California, where she blogs about her passions at A View from Sierra County.