I moved to California over 15 years ago. And since my roots have nestled deep into this state, I have come to realize that there are wonderful benefits to living in this great state – and there are cons, too. But, I won’t dwell on that right now. One of the many reasons I love living in Southern California is the produce. Our farmers here grow such wonderous things, and I have access to all of them – farm fresh and delicious. That’s why I was thrilled to be invited to visit a strawberry field in Oxnard, California by the California Strawberry Commission. And I found myself happily lost in a sea of strawberries.
Although the whole family was invited, only my daughter came along with me, as the boys had a boy scout event with their Dad. I drove up with my friend Mary, California Greek Girl, and spent a gorgeous sunny Saturday in Oxnard. Blue skies, a cool breeze – another benefit to living in California! The first thing Mary and I noticed about Oxnard were the endless farm fields before us. We came to visit Catalinos Berry Farms and my daughter was giggling with delight. First, she had Mommy all to herself all weekend. And second, she was visiting a strawberry field. I’m not sure which one made her happier, but I believe I came second to the strawberries that day.
A tractor ride from the parking lot took us to an oasis in the field, a white canopied spot where we would eat lunch and learn about strawberries. My Princess, dressed in sandals and a pink frock (she doesn’t do pants), couldn’t wait to go exploring up and down the strawberry lanes. I reassured my hosts not to worry about her clothes or open toes. She might not be wearing traditional farm clothes, but she is totally comfortable getting down and dirty – as long as she is in a pink frilly dress while getting dirty. And she gets nice and dirty.
During lunch, we enjoyed our strawberry stuffed turkey wraps and sipped on strawberry lemonade. We listed to Bill Reiman, a 5th generation Ventura County farmer and general manager of Catalinos Berry Farms. It’s not hard to believe that California is our nation’s leading producer of strawberries, with over 400 strawberry farmers producing this kid-friendly fruit.
I always loved strawberries, and I fell in love with them even more when I discovered that this wonder-fruit is high in Vitamin C, low in sugar, and is a great source of fiber, folate and potassium. More and more we are learning the health benefits of eating strawberries. I love that I don’t have to force my kids to eat them.
During our farm tour, my daughter would wander up and down the field, stuffing strawberries into her mouth. She had a blast with the Fujilings and all of the other kiddos that came on the tour. I got to catch up with old friends Dorothy/Shockingly Delicious and Jeanne/Jolly Tomato. And I made some new friends like Tess/The Blender Girl, Shelby/OC Mom Blog and Jackie/The Beeroness. Apparently, I talked to a fellow blogger that I had admired, Chung-Ah, without realizing who she was – duh! That was Damn Delicious! Why is it we can’t recognize each other without our twitter handle??? Oh yeah, we had kids with us!
After lunch and fun, we visited the experimental fields where these farmers were trying new strawberry breeds and farming techniques. Strawberry growers invest millions of dollars in research and sustainable farming practices to reduce pesticide use and environmental impacts. It takes about 10 years of research for a new plant to be commercially viable. And we are not talking about GMOs, either. There are NO genetically modified strawberries commercially grown and shipped.
We learned quickly that strawberries are picked, packed and cooled down in freezers. Then they are wrapped with plastic wrap and shipped off to grocery stores ALL IN THE SAME DAY. Yup, the strawberries you see in the store were just picked.
MIND BLOWN AWAY!
And just when we thought our fun-filled day couldn’t get any better, we returned to our oasis and were greeted with a gorgeous strawberry-laden menu prepared by Tim Kilcoyne, Executive Chef and owner of The SideCar Restaurant in Ventura.
- Bruschetta with fava bean ricotta, house made strawberry mustard and arugula
- Braised Chicken Enchiladas with Swiss chard, roasted strawberry mole and queso fresco — Served with a black bean and quinoa salad
- Chocolate Genoise with strawberry mousse, ganache and white chocolate dipped strawberry
- Strawberry Basil Meyer Lemonade
Everything was fantastic. I am not a huge mole fan, but the strawberry mole was amazing!! Chef Tim said he didn’t type up that recipe because it took all day to prepare. Yum, yum… so worth it!
Thank you Jodi and the wonderful crew from California Strawberry Commission for the incredible day. I know My daughter had a blast not just because of her smiling face, but because of the dirt-ring-around-the-tub she left behind after her bath that night!
Disclosure: My family and I were invited by California Strawberry Commission to tour the strawberry fields of Catalinos Berry Farms. I was paid a stipend to write about my visit. All the opinions I expressed here are my own. Seriously, WHO DOESN’T LOVE STRAWBERRIES????