California strawberry peak season is officially here, according to the California Strawberry Commission.
California strawberries are available year-round; March through August mark the peak season. Eighty-eight percent of the strawberries in the United States are grown in California. They’re grown by more than 500 family farmers.
“California strawberry farmers consider food safety their top priority,” says California Strawberry Commission President Mark Murai. “For many years we have invested millions of dollars in research to develop innovative and sustainable farming techniques to bring the very best and safest fruit to consumers.”
First-generation strawberry farmer Hector Gutierrez employs many of these practices. Based in Oxnard, Gutierrez strives to be a steward of the land. He grew up in an agricultural family in the Central Valley, and, in addition to being a farmer, Gutierrez also is a licensed pest control consultant. He uses a low-risk environmental approach that combines natural and preemptive methods for pest prevention.
Gutierrez owns and operates both organic and conventional strawberry farms and weaves a wide range of organic principles into his conventional farming, the commission says. He utilizes a bug vacuum to remove pests and plants flowers around the perimeter of his farm, shielding the fruit from dust and attracting beneficial insects—all of which allow him to reduce his use of pesticides.
“We’re able to keep coming back year after year because we like working with the soil and we like producing good quality fruit,” Gutierrez says. “We want to be stewards of the land, and in order to be stewards of the land and allow it to produce the crop that it does, we have to take the best care of it.”
A Gutierrez family recipe is fresh Strawberry Cucumber Salad.
• Strawberry Cucumber Salad Serves: 6
4-1/2 cups (1-1/2 pounds) California strawberries, stemmed and quartered
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3/4 cup Italian parsley leaves
4 green onions, chopped
6 radishes, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
To make salad: In large bowl, toss salad ingredients with vinaigrette until coated. Mound salad on 6 chilled plates, dividing it equally. Serve immediately.
To make vinaigrette: In bowl, whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients except oil. Whisk in oil until blended.
• Nutritional Information
Nutrition information per serving: 131 calories; 10g fat; 0mg cholesterol; 205mg sodium; 12g carbohydrate; 4g fiber; 1g protein.
For more strawberry recipes, please visit CaliforniaStrawberries.com/recipes.