WATSONVILLE, Calif. — Right in the field and in catered dishes, 10 food bloggers got up close and personal with strawberry flavors and saw some of the challenges growers face in a tour hosted by the California Strawberry Commission.
The farm tour and culinary event, 365 Days of California Strawberries, was July 17-18 in Santa Cruz and Watsonville.
As the bloggers sampled three varieties — Albion, Merced and Monterey — at Shinta Kawahara Farm in Watsonville with grower Rod Koda, they tweeted reactions straight from the field using Twitter hashtag #strawberryland.
“I’m looking for something that beats this,” Koda said, holding up an Albion, whose flavor has made it his primary planting even though the yield is less than some alternatives.
“Everybody’s palate is different, so it’s hard to know as a grower what the consumers are really going to like,” said the grower, whose strawberries ship under the Watsonville Berry Co-op’s Berry Bowl label.
“I have the luxury of doing both organic and conventional, because the family owns the property,” said Koda, who farms 27 acres of strawberries, a third of them organic. His average annual yield is about 8,500 trays per acre.
That yield is maintained by soil and pest management practices that, in some cases, can be used for both organic and conventional strawberries — like the vacuums that target lygus bugs.
At the Monterey Bay Academy, where Dole leases land for strawberries, California Strawberry Commission production research manager Hillary Thomas discussed some of the problems growers face.
“One of the biggest challenges I have as a pest management expert is working with this industry on managing small landscapes,” she said, in contrast to big contiguous acreage in other regions for crops like soybeans or corn.
“We’ve been fairly successful,” Thomas said. “We still have challenges with this (lygus) bug. We can’t manage this landscape, so we have to be very resourceful about what happens in our fields. We don’t have a lot of chemical controls. We use what we do have, admittedly. But the growers are interested in reducing that.”
At a luncheon, commission senior vice president Chris Christian discussed nutrition. Menu items by Lobos Truck included fresh herb and farmer’s cheese-stuffed strawberries rolled in pecan bacon dust; and a peanut butter, strawberry jam and bacon Kobe slider on brioche with waffle fries and strawberry ketchup.
Bloggers on the tour included:
Dara Michalski, Cookin’ Canuck www.cookincanuck.com/;
Kristy Denney, Sweet Treats & More http://sweettreatsmore.com/;
Katrina Bahl, In Katrina’s Kitchen www.inkatrinaskitchen.com/;
Cariann Cheney, Oh Sweet Basil www.ohsweetbasil.com/;
Anita Chu, Dessert First http://dessertfirstgirl.com/;
Melissa Bailey, Hungry Food Love http://hungryfoodlove.com/;
Caroline Kauffman, R.D., Caroline Kauffman Nutrition www.carolinekaufman.com/;
TerriAnn van Gosliga, Cookies & Clogs www.cookiesandclogs.com/;
Sarah Menanix, Snixy Kitchen www.snixykitchen.com; and
Rosalynda Thorn, This Mama Can Cook http://thismamacancook.net/.