Monday, January 18, 2010

Winter Strawberries

True winter strawberries (rather than those imported from a warmer clime) are a rare and precious commodity. They look pretty ordinary, but they are the most amazingly sweet strawberries we have ever tasted.

When we took the Tanaka Farms CSA family day tour, Glenn Tanaka told us that the first crop of strawberries in the season are his favorite.  They plant strawberries in October/November.  By the end of December, the first strawberries ripen.  Winter berries are the smallest and sweetest strawberries the plant will ever produce.

They mature more slowly due to the cold weather and shorter days.  There are only a few, not enough for commercial harvest. Glenn says he and the rest of the TF family love to walk the fields then, searching for strawberries under the leaves and eating them right away.

By January, there are a bit more--enough to share with the CSA families.  Last week, we received two pints of these ambrosial berries in our CSA box.  In February-March, when the days get warmer and longer, the plants go into full-scale production.  They can pick the plants every few days because the berries grow and ripen so quickly.  They will also be bigger, but they will never be as sweet and precious as those early season jewels.

Sadly, the heavy rains this week may damage the strawberry plants.  They need just the right amount of rain and this may be too much.  Mildew can set in on strawberry plants if there isn't sufficient sunshine and wind to dry the plants out between waterings.

We hope for more winter strawberries in this week's box, but we are prepared to be disappointed.  The ones from South America or greenhouses sold in the supermarkets are not the same.

If you live in Beach Cities/ES/Torrance and want to order Tanaka Farms CSA boxes, visit the Madison and Lincoln School CSA blog for signup information.

4 comments:

  1. I didn't realize winter strawberries existed! I thought strawberries only grew in June. When I was going to grad school in Ithaca, we'd go strawberry picking then.

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  2. I am so jealous! We used to get our berries at a farm near Tustin (probably long gone now). Stop making me homesick :)
    It's so cold here, and the only berries are from...California! But not as nice as yours.

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  3. Oh, I am so jealous of your winter strawberries right now. They look fabulous.

    I remember looking at the strawberry fields in Orange County last time my DH had a meeting in late February and enjoying that fabulous winter treat.

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  4. You have just explained why the California strawberries we're buying right now are so good. We'd been wondering about that!

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