Strawberries In Monterey, CA! #castrawberrytourNEWS | Nirasha Jaganath | July 24, 2011 at 6:25 am
Next week I get to co-host a fabulous Strawberry event in Boston but I wanted to shared with you my experiences of my Monterey trip. This year with my travel I missed strawberry picking here in Boston – and the bigger reason I missed it is that that window of picking is so small here. The rainy weather did not help at all but even otherwise the climate is not really one that would have a long harvesting season. Unlike Monterey in California which, had I not been there myself would not have believed it, somehow has the perfect weather for strawberries. That must also why Monterey has the largest crop of Strawberries, ever! The coastline i beautiful but somehow unlike the picture of California I have etched in my mind a little cooler. I guess that must make it conducive to growing strawberries. I mean can you imagine what strawberries look like if you left it out compared to the ones in your fridge? Precisely!
I was lucky enough to be one of 5 ambassadors chosen by the California Strawberry Commission and I really felt honored at being asked. Being the Boston ambassador was so much a no-brainer, I mean who does not love strawberries. Better yet, this was not exactly representing one brand of strawberries, it is an actual commission that makes sure that there are guidelines and support for the strawberry industry in California. Being a person who grew up in tropical weather I miss the access to a huge selection of fruits in Boston. In fact I am always jealous that California weather makes it a haven for exquisite range of fruits.
The night before we started of with a strawberry inspired dinner but the next morning we actually visited the farms and more. As I mentioned I was unaware that California could even have breezy weather and the Bostonion rebel in me refused to dress in layers like suggested. Sure it was sunny but there was a bite in the air – thankfully the very kind Carolyn from the commission packed some light fleece sweaters for us. Speaking to the farmers (we visited 2 farms) were a treat as they patiently answered every question I had (and trust me there were a lot) but we got to chat about several issues.
Weather and it being complementary to the strawberry growth was discussed but we also learned that many aspects are unpredictable. Catering for drier spells with tanks and ensuring the soil is not too clay-like (or sandy) are all part and parcel of a day’s work. I had asked my readers about pesticides and expected the farmer to shriek or avoid my questions and he calmly answered about how they did so minimally within safety standards. I also enquired about organic strawberries and got to visit the organic portion too. I realized the challenges faced with growing organic like keeping off diseases and pests. Appreciated the candidness of the farmers and the absolute passion they have for their work.
We also learned about labor on the farm and how the immigration laws effect that. It is all well and fine to hear politicians spew out laws but hearing the personal impact on the lives of farm laborers was educational, and yet sad at times. Storage of those strawberries is, as you can imagine, an important part of the equation. No use growing them if they spoil as you store (and transport) them. The person running the storage facility showed us that the aim was to keep them in there for the shortest time. The ultimate aim was in under 24 hours, from picking time, to get them to their destination. Also crazy to learn that we in Boston probably get it later than say our European counterparts, thanks to our strawberries coming by trucks instead of flights like theirs. Also great to learn about the quality control aspects. Not only do suppliers come in to make spot inspections on the quality (one was in there while we were there) but also the quality control while transported and on delivery. With rules governing crop rotation it means a year passes before the field is used again and due to the outbreaks ecoli most vegetables are not allowed on ground due to animals having access to them.
Stay tuned for more after my event next week.
Disclosure: This is part of an ambassadorship for the California Strawberry Commission!