I’ve worked with California Strawberries in the past and I’m a big fan of theirs. So I was honored when they asked me to be a brand ambassador this year. What exactly does that mean? Well, for the blog it mostly means I’ll be creating more strawberry recipes as well as sharing their contests periodically (keep an eye out later this week for a fun one!). It also means that I get to do really cool things like traveling to Monterey to take part in a California Strawberries farm & culinary tour.
California’s climate was built for growing strawberries. With moderate temperatures, rich, coastal soils and western ocean exposure, it’s a perfect combination for a year-round strawberry season. Four hundred family farmers grow strawberries on 40,000 acres across the state, growing approximately 88% of the nation’s strawberries. I was incredibly excited to tour several of these farms firsthand and see how the process works.
We learned so much information on this trip that I think consumers should be aware of. I’m including a Frequently Asked Question from California Strawberries that I think is very helpful. Feel free to discuss, respond or ask questions below in the comment section:
Are organic strawberries healthier than conventional?
Available scientific data indicate that there is not a significant difference in the nutritional quality between organically and conventionally grown foods.. Many conventional farmers use some of the same production practices that organic growers use. Health and nutrition experts recommend eating fresh fruits and veggies – whether organic or conventional. According to the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans, most people should be doubling their fruit and vegetable consumption to reduce their risk of chronic disease and maintain a healthy weight.
Is GMO is used to grow strawberries?
No. There are no genetically modified strawberries commercially grown and shipped. Different varieties of strawberries are developed for different climates and growing conditions. These varieties are developed using traditional breeding methods that involve selecting two parents and crossing them using their flowers.
I’ve heard that we shouldn’t eat fruit on the “Dirty Dozen” list because of pesticides. Should I be concerned about strawberries?
Not at all. Health experts recommend eating both conventional and organic fruits for optimal health. A panel of experts reviewed the scientific basis for the “dirty dozen” list and found it to be misleading. For more information abut this topic, check out the Alliance for Food & Farming website where you can find science-based facts. Visit http://www.safefruitsandveggies.com.
Now for the tour. For starters, I have to talk about Carmel Valley Ranch. What a lovely place. For a few days I felt like a princess staying in absolute luxury.
The villas were spectacular. Cozy beds, a fireplace, lots of amenities. I think I took a bath every single night I was there. The service was always friendly and helpful. The grounds were well taken care of and full of lavender, one of my favorite plants. I would most definitely go back.
Moving onto strawberry fields…
Our first stop was Shinta Kawahara, a big beautiful strawberry farm in Watsonville. Rod Koda and his wife Gwen took over this family farm in 1985, which was established by his grandmother-in-law in 1959. The farm grows both conventional and organic strawberries on over 27 acres along the Monterey Bay coast.
Rod Koda, Watsonville Strawberry Farmer
There was photo taking. Here’s Yvette getting a close up.
There was also goofing off.
Jodi and Megan. I love and already miss these gals.
Jodi- Garlic Girl, Mitzi- Nutrition Expert, Jill- The Veggie Queen, Kristianne- My San Francisco Kitchen,
Jennifer- Playful Pantry, Laura- Superglue Mom, Jess- Sodium Girl, Ivette- Muy Bueno Cooking,
Kankana- Playful Cooking, Me, Amy- Cooking with Amy, Nicole- Pinch My Salt, Claudya- Unknown Mami
After leaving the farm we were treated to a fantastic strawberry themed lunch.
I may have gone back for seconds.
Amy, Nicole and moi.
Ed Kelly, Jr., a strawberry grower and shipper at Berry Chill Cooler. We learned about how California Strawberries make their way from the fields to your local grocery store.
Into the cooler we went. Can you tell from everyone’s body language that it was kind of cold in there? 34 degrees F, to be exact.
Jess and I were not dressed for such weather.
Finally we headed to Elkhorn Ranch where we were given some interesting insight into how strawberries are grown.
There was an Instagram contest happening and one of the entries was for “Best Strawberry Selfie.” You know what happened next.
Not everyone can eat a strawberry with this much sass. Sassberry.
Jodi and I are masters of the strawberry selfie.
After a long day we were given a few hours to relax and then get ready for a strawberry themed cocktail reception and dinner at Carmel Valley Ranch.
I had two of these.
That’s me, second from the right, trying to keep my eyes open after a long day.
We were treated to another masterful strawberry dinner from Chef Tim Wood. This 4 course meal included:
Chilled corn bisque with strawberry garnish and micro celery
Pickled and fresh strawberries, shaved celery, sherry mousse, fennel, herb
Moroccan lamb sirloin steak paired with wild caught prawns and strawberry pineapple salsa
Shortcake with strawberry compote, chant illy cream, powdered sugar
On the last day we were treated to a demonstration from Chef Tim Wood followed by a team culinary challenge. We had an hour to come up with a strawberry themed dish. My team made a strawberry red wine risotto topped with grilled scallops and an avocado corn salsa, paired with a side salad. We didn’t win but received an honorable mention!
After the challenge ended and we finished lunch, I finally had some downtime. I walked around Carmel Valley Ranch’s gorgeous property, taking in the beauty.
Lavender fields at Carmel Valley Ranch.
Finally I had a little bit of time for this.
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by California Strawberries. I was compensated for my time but all opinions are my own!