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May 8, 2000 12:04 AM

oh yeah: local strawberries are in season!!

  • g

This is one of those where-do-I-put-it-or-is-it-really-even-appropriate-for-chowhound posts.

Strawberries have come in season here in Modesto, CA with a bang, something I look forward to each year. I will put the best of local Modesto strawberries up against the best of anywhere in the state. For many years, coastal berries have been regarded as the superior product--Watsonville has its adherents, so does SLO. Nope, Modesto berries are even better.

Plump but not huge (I don't like those hardball sized objects that are palmed off as a luxury--generally the taste & texture are consistent with that comparison as well. A red that says "eat me now", and an aroma coming off the box that you can smell at 20 paces, and when you close in on it is heady and almost overwhelming. Bite in and the juice is nectar, the berry has a yielding firmness, the overall experience is utterly hedonistic. We have the remains of a half-crate in the 'fridge now and I'll be having a few more later. Of course they are absolutely best just out of the field, or at least at room temp. These cold ones will also be cut over cereal tomorrow.

The funny thing is, until just a few years ago we had no commercial strawberry fields here, and now they are all around the periphery of town. Generally, the rise of this "industry" has seemed to coincide with the settlement in this area of many Southeast Asian refugees. These folks find a little plot of land, plant berries, put up a roadside stand, and are on the capitalist path. And we all are blessed.

The best strawberries in Modesto? That would have to be the little patch at the southwest corner of Carpenter Rd. & California Ave. I can't drive by, the car just automatically pulls over.

Mmmm...time to go have a few!


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  1. A couple of fill ins on the strawberries. They are as superb here in Fresno and the surrounding towns as George describes in Modesto. The people who grow them are the Hmong, a tribal people from Laos. They were recruited by the CIA and Special Forces to fight the Laotian government during the Vietnam era. After the war, the government and the Lao people were not happy with them, and persecuted them mightily. Many fled to Thailand, and eventually most of the survivors were able to come to the US.

    There are large populations in Minneapolis, in North Carolina, in Denver, and in the San Joaquin Valley. Their adoption of strawberry farming was not an accident, nor was it automatic. A far seeing farm advisor, whose name I don't remember, and who died recently, put the package together, and went out and recruited and trained the Hmong to this new business. In Laos, they lived a nomadic life in the hills. Their ancestors came from Siberia, through China, over the past 1500 years or so, persecuted all the way.

    Anyway, the strawberries are great. If you're traveling through the Valley, it's worth it to get off the 99 and find a stand and buy a half crate (6 pint baskets). The price usually ranges from $4 to $6, and my wife and I have strawberries on our cereal for several days.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Ed

      Hey Ed--nice to see you on the boards again recently. I get down to Fresburg from time to time for meetings & such--hope you'll post a few favorites for the area on the CA board.

      Thanks for adding to the strawberry story. The story of the Hmong is an amazing story. They are wonderful people.

      1. re: george osner


        Actually, I just got turned on to this message board about a week or so ago. I was looking for a restaurant recommendation in New York for a gift night out for New York relatives.

        I put up something on the California board, plus an addendum to your comments about Mediterranean Cafe. Today my wife and I went in to town, and ate out twice, both times at places new to us. Lunch was at Sam's Bar-B-Que at the southeast corner of Marks and Shaw. I had jambalaya which was a little more soupy than I prefer it, but quite good. Judy had the Friday special, deep fried red snapper with pilaf, also very tasty. She also ordered a side of the potato salad, which was excellent. Dessert was a shared piece of sweet potato pie. Judy thought it was too sweet, but I was OK with it.

        For dinner I radared out a Japanese place called Miyako on Blackstone north of the River Park Shopping Center. It's in a little corner shopping center with Techsource, the local Mac supplier and The Malt Shop. Judy had a Japanese fried chicken with "special sauce", a sweetish concoction that just kind of grows on you. I thought the combination very tasty. The breading on the chicken was light and crisp. I had the tuna sashimi, which was quite good. The salad and soup were also good, as is usual in Japanese restaurants here.

        I have, at least up until now, enjoyed pretty good restaurant radar of the kind that led me to say "let's see what's in that shopping center" when dinner time was upon us. Sound like you have the same gift. Remind me to tell you the story of the Walker Pass Inn one day.

        Alpha Dog, I just realized that I wrote all this on the wrong board. This is really only of interest to those on the California Borard. Can that be fixed?

        1. re: Ed


          Yep, wrong board. But welcome to Chowhound and I'm so glad that George has someone else within a 50-mile radius to swap suggestions with. He's been toiling in a virtual vacuum here.

          1. re: Ed

            Ed, welcome.

            This board's ok, because you've been discussing places in various regions of the country. But when a given discussion on this General Topics board ever starts to focus on one area, it'd be appreciated (for all concerned) if the topic could be taken to the appropriate regional board.

            It's simple and low tech....just post a reply saying "Hey, meet me on the California board...look for a new thread called XXXXX"


        2. re: Ed

          You guys haven't had real strawberries until you have tasted wild strawberries that have grown at a 4,000 foot elevation or higher. Very small and packed with flavor...too bad they are so tough to reach. Same goes for wild blueberries. I have 4 days off for the 4th and I am headed to the Blue Ridge Mountains and berry heaven!