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Gigantic Strawberries

I was just watching the news and they showed these gigantic strawberries sold at Pierce college. Supposedly great taste and scent, which are lacking in most strawberries right now. These are the size of a small fist or avocado. Woodland Hills is a bit far for me to drive. Does anyone know of anywhere else they sell these, maybe even in Orange County? TIA

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  1. I saw huge strawvberries @ the Fullerton Farmer's Market (the one on Thursday evenings) last week. Three baskets for $12.

    1. Dunno about the ones at Pierce College, but I usually find that the larger the strawberries the more they taste like cardboard -- both in terms of flavor and texture.

      Not that I necessarily have eaten alot of cardboard, but still ...

      20 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Agreed. These biomorphic strawberries are an abomination. I don't care about SIZE people, I care about flavor. If anyone can recommend a good grocery store/farmer's market with REAL strawberries (flavor/aroma) near Larchmont/Ktown area, I would be forever grateful. I am suspicious even of the Farmer's Market ones these days - where oh where did all the flavor go?

        1. re: lafoodie7

          http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...
          A list of Farmers markets in Los Angeles.

          I have gotten really good Strawberries the past two weeks.

          Once in Glendale (I'm actually leaving in a few minutes to get some more) on Thursday's

          and once in Studio City on Sunday.

          people rave about Harry's Berries I've seen them at the Wednesday Santa Monica market.

          Sample the product and don't go for the bargain. Living in So Cal we have a great selection of Fresh Fruits and vegetables.

          1. re: 420 Reasons to eat

            check out Jerry Rutiz' galante berries, harry's berries seascapes and gaviotas and gloria tamai's albions, chandlers and camarosas. all three are at the santa monica wednesday market, though they are individually at several others as well.

            1. re: FED

              I used to LOVE Harry's Berries when they grew chandlers. The past few years they have just brought seascapes and gaviotas to the FMs and they are usually priced double what even the organic farmers are charging. Last year I only bought Harry's once and thought they were equal or barely superior to the others. This year I've been tasting the samples and do not think they are anywhere near worth double the price. Anyone else think the quality has declined?

              1. re: amela

                Second. Just bought a 3-pack of Harry's after trying the much cheaper competitors and I felt ripped off . . . and sad. I'm skipping Harry's next time.

                1. re: Frommtron

                  That's it exactly...I felt ripped off and sad.

                2. re: amela

                  To the contrary - I am constantly amazed how dramatically better Harry's berries are than the others in the market almost every week, as long as you accept the fact that they aren't going to last more than a day or two. This hasn't been a spectacular strawberry year so far - still, Harry's mediocre March berries were better than everybody else's mediocre March berries - but they've really gotten good in the last couple of weeks.

                  I find your nostalgia for Chandlers a bit misplaced, btw. Chandlers may be the best of the berries bred for shipping - most supermarket berries are Chandlers - but gaviotas are pure taste.

                  1. re: condiment

                    uh, no. you're thinking of Camarosas. Chandlers are the berries that Camarosa replaced. they were too soft for shipping (and a few other problems).

                    1. re: FED

                      You're mostly right. Chandlers have skins a little too soft to ship well, and I did forget about Camarosa - although Chandlers were introduced as a designer mass-market berry, and do still have massive acreage in the state. It's still pretty instructive to taste Chandlers and Gaviotas side by side. There's no comparison in the depth of flavor.

                      1. re: condiment

                        not to beat a dead horse, but chandlers are rarely found outside of farmers markets. there is still a pretty extensive planting in the san joaquin valley, but that almost all goes to processing (canning, jams, etc). as far as taste, non disputandum and all that, but i'd be very interested in tasting gaviotas and chandlers grown side-by-side. at least to my mind (as a long-time strawberry taster), chandlers are vastly superior.

                    2. re: condiment

                      Perhaps it's been a bad year, although I don't know enough about strawberries to guess why. Harry's used to be without question the king of the market but this year they really aren't any better in my experience. The prices remain the highest I've ever seen though. Chalk it up to a bad year all around lowering the quality across the board but this year Harry's isn't worth it for me. I'll give them another go later this season though and hope you're right.

                      1. re: Frommtron

                        I didn't Harry's was very good last year either, not worth the extra $.

                    3. re: amela

                      there's a lot of truth to that. But the great thing about farmers markets is you can taste and decide. So far, my scorecard has been Harry's once, Rutiz' Galantes twice and Gloria Tamai's Albions once (most recently, and also the best). Just a side note, Harry's is organic, though not certified.

                      1. re: FED

                        I agree that all the strawberries are not up to previous years' deliciousness (for lack of a better word!)... my point being although once I gladly paid Harry's prices, this year they have not been worth it to me.

                        1. re: amela

                          i think that's a point well-taken. you can become too attached to a single grower and that can blind you to equal, or better flavor from cheaper growers.

                3. re: lafoodie7

                  Have you tried strawberries from the Sunday Larchmont Farmer's market?

                  I've had some that were very good.

                  1. re: Wolfgang

                    thank you. will do. Now to find a parking spot..... ;P

                  2. re: lafoodie7

                    Go to Harry's Berries at the Sunday Hollywood farmers (Sunset and Ivar) market and get yourself some gaviotas or seascapes. You will not be disappointed.

                    http://recenteats.blogspot.com/2008/0...

                  3. re: ipsedixit

                    I totally agree with you, but on the news article, it stated that these newer varieties have more scent and flavor than many of the 'regular' berries we get nowadays.

                    1. re: justagthing

                      I just got 3 baskets of Gaviotas for $8.00 in Glendale. They are great super sweet and taste great. I could never complain and i honestly wouldn't know what they are missing.

                      a little off topic, i had a fruit salad at breakfast today and the strawberries in that tasted gross compared to the gaviotas I have been purchasing.

                      I will see if i can persuade my wife to stop by Pierce College this weekend she will be in the neighborhood.

                  4. there's a relatively new variety called Albion that is catching on with FM growers. it's very sweet, pretty darned good flavor and very large. it's also got a bit of that styrofoam texture.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: FED

                      Yes, the Albion. This is the new variety the OP is talking about. I saw the news story too and now also want some and also don't want to drive to Woodland Hills.

                    2. FYI, a friend of mine went over there today and there are no avacado-sized berries. All are regular sized, and the flavor isn't really special. I guess the Albions can be grown regular and super duper. The berries at Pierce college are from oxnard. And it looks like strawberry farmers are growing more Albions, so it doesn't seem to be worth the trip up there unless you're in the hood. http://www.calstrawberry.com/commissi...

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: slacker

                        I don't know anything about the Albions,but the regular strawberries grown in Oxnard are some of the best tasting strawberries ever,I drive from Pasadena to Oxnard every spring just for strawberies because they are worth it (also for the barbecue tri tip.

                        1. re: WINDELLA

                          I just bought a half a flat from the street guys in Simi where I live for $10.00. Full flat is $18.00 They don't look all that great and they are medium size but taste is a B plus. I just haven't seen the nice looking ones this year. But I have not been to any farmers markets either. I am at work whe the FM is held in Simi from 3pm on.

                      2. Generational thing? I just about don't buy strawberries anymore, as they don't have as much flavor as the ones "back when". If half the berries an a carton are white, why bother. I think any good French person would "f*rt in the general direction" of what's available to the average SoCal consumer, especially as compared to fraises de bois.

                        22 Replies
                        1. re: Akitist

                          You are so right to insert, "the average SoCal consumer..." But as fragrant as fraises de bois are, they are a totally different animal in terms of how many in europe may view these strawberries versus how we Americans view them. I used to grow fraises de bois in my backyard and enjoyed picking and eating these little gems but the number of plants needed for a dessert of these to happen is astronomical. Americans enjoy the succulent juice and the tart-sweet flavor that our typical strawbs impart, and if you pick one of the better varieties mentioned above, they more than hold their own in terms of what more demanding eaters envision as the ultimate strawberry.

                          I've found that the easiest way to make an average strawberry better is to sprinkle some Grand Marnier or even triple sec along with some ginger syrup and a little bit of powdered sugar - fructose syrup will work as well. Let this macerate in a covered bowl for about 20-30 minutes and you're good to go...

                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            Understood, but it just isn't like what Dad brought home from the Grand Central Market when I was a kid. Sweeteners or liqueur were not needed. I've read rave reviews of the strawberry donuts from Donut Man and have had to ask myself if those could be the same ones I've eaten. Bland. Little natural sweetness. Like the plant geneticists at UC Davis had grafted in some DNA from cardboard.

                            Sorry if this comes off as a diatribe, but I just feel that we're getting cheated on one of the great pleasures of life: good, naturally ripe fruit (and veggies).

                            1. re: Akitist

                              I hear where you're coming from, but again - great strawbs do exist here in SoCal - Chandlers, Gaviotas, and Seabreezes are great "berries" as long as they're allowed to ripen on the runners and are grown more responsibly. The doctoring of strawbs is necessary for the far more mediocre versions one might get stuck with at the supermarket, and it is a great accent to "real" strawbs as well...

                              Often times we are getting cheated for the sake of shelf life, price or convenience. That's a choice that we as consumers as a whole are guilty of for literally buying into the notion that we will take whatever a mass provider is telling us to take...

                            2. re: bulavinaka

                              Might I also suggest a little orange blossom water and sugar for an alternative. I've been doing that lately and it's been really nice. Very light and the strawberry flavor is amplified as opposed to combined with the other flavors.

                              1. re: Frommtron

                                I spoke with the woman behind the counter at the Pierce College Fruit Stand.

                                The day after that piece aired on TV they sold 1500 pounds of strawberries from 10AM when they opened until 1PM when they ran out.

                                They were the Albions, but Albions are NOT all big like they showed on TV. She said that she hand-picked those for the show. She also said that the one being shown on the show was being eaten by a 3 year old so think about the size comparison.

                                They also don't grow the strawberries there. They are from farms in Oxnard.

                                Oxnard happens to grow some of the best strawberries in the country.

                                I bought a bottle of crabapple jam at the fruit stand. It came from Athens, GA!

                                1. re: mar52

                                  But on the show, there were many adults eating them, and they showed those big berries pictured side by side with an avocado. So it's not just in comparison with a 3 yo's hand. Too bad they're not all gigantic, I'd drive up and buy a flat just for the novelty.

                                  1. re: slacker

                                    Thanks for making that statement. I was thinking that it was in adult hands as well, but I should have figured that it was somewhat staged, as most food that is advertised is staged. They just looked so good. Still haven't heard from anyone that may have had one of those huge ones...

                                    1. re: slacker

                                      They still had a lot of avocados for sale when I was there.

                                      They were very small avocados.

                                  2. re: Frommtron

                                    That's a great suggestion... A little orange blossom water goes a long way... I'm already imagining its perfume with even a great strawberry... thanks!

                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                      Sure! Maybe you could let me in on where you get your ginger syrup? That sounds like it could make it's way in to several desserts and cocktails in my house.

                                      1. re: Frommtron

                                        ginger'd be great. yesterday i served strawberries, oranges and blood oranges in a light lavender simple syrup. that was good, too.

                                        1. re: Frommtron

                                          You can probably make it relatively easily, but I get mine at Market Gourmet in Venice... It has the right balance of heat and sweet... Elixer G is the name...

                                          http://www.elixerg.com/

                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                            Thanks!

                                      2. re: Frommtron

                                        Fromm, I took your suggestion on the orange blossom water and combined it with a recipe from Ferran Adria of El Bulli (I've got a lot of nerve) and ended up with a fantastic dessert tonight. Organic strawbs, some sugar, a generous splash of a good Rioja, a touch of good Spanish sherry vinegar, a few grinds from the pepper mill, a cinnamon stick crumbled, and instead of zest of lemon and orange, I used the orange blossom water. I was sipping the juice in the bottom of the bowl like a fine liqeur for an hour after I finished the strawbs. the orange blossom essence made this dessert heaven... thank you for your rec...

                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                          My jaw is on the floor. That just sounds outrageously good. I'm going to try that one soon.

                                        2. re: Frommtron

                                          Would you happen to know their hours of operation? Can you send me their number? I've tried to find them on the web to no avail!

                                        3. re: bulavinaka

                                          you're right, bula, but furthermore, fraises des bois are berries that must be eaten within about 5 minutes and 5 miles of where they're grown. they have the shelf life of a soap bubble. and it's erroneous to think that fraises des bois are typical French market strawberries. they are very much a specialty item, even there. most french market strawberries are similar to(and indeed, even the same varieties as) the ones we we buy here. Camarosa is VERY popular in Europe. quelle domage.

                                          1. re: FED

                                            What a shame is right... I'd give them more than 5 minutes, depending on the weather... but you're right - they wither if looked at them wrong... sorry for confusing the issue as what I should say is that the perception of these little gems is totally different from what we here view as strawberries - very much apples and oranges... but well worth growing your own if you have the location...

                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                              bula, if i may be so bold as to address you that way, where did you get your plants? i've been wanting to put in fraises des bois as border plants along a veggie garden walkway.

                                              1. re: FED

                                                FED, try calling around - the well-stocked nurseries carry them occasionally. I believe I saw them at Marina Gardens a handful of years back. Another place is the annual nursery sale at the Huntington Gardens in San Marino (that's where I got mine back in the 90s). One more shot might be to get them (if you can) at a farmers market - the actual berries - and sacrifice a few precious ones by smearing them onto a damp paper towel. Let the towel dry then you can transfer the seeds into some nursery-style sixpacks with growth medium. They honestly grow like weeds once they get established. Any fallen berries will result in more volunteers if your soil has been amended at all. Your enemies are obvious - birds, rodents, snails and slugs. Good luck!

                                                1. re: FED

                                                  FED, I was at today's Santa Monica farmers market on Arizona and asked one of the live plant sellers about "alpine," or fraises des bois plants - he said he does normally carry them. I didn't actually see them with my own eyes as he was trying to find them among his stock, but he seemed very confident about it. He's the person who has the stall right at Arizona and 3rd - just south of the American Eagle shop... Good luck!

                                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                                    I am able to get these at the Wed SM farmers market. Jaime Farms carries them. Almost all of his crop goes to chefs, but he's squirreled away a pint or two for me in the past. Ask him and maybe you'll get lucky. He has them very intermittently.

                                        4. Size does NOT matter.

                                          A large strawberry may look impressive, but if it can’t deliver with taste, what is the point of putting it IN your mouth, and subjecting youR taste buds to it?

                                          I’d go for: 1st flavor, 2nd color, 3rd other aesthetics, such as size/shape.
                                          Keep in mind, strawberries do not ripen “off the vine”, so best not to buy them if they show any white/pink on them.

                                          I live close to Watsonville & Salinas, where strawberries is the #1 crop in Santa Cruz County and #2 crop in Monterey County.

                                          Us finicky FM shoppers up this way stay away from the Albion & the Diamante. They don’t have the flavor. But since they have a longer shelf life, they are best suited for shipping out of the area. Much prefer the camarosa & the seascape.

                                          10 Replies
                                          1. re: LauraB706

                                            To be fair, it seems the OP just wanted to try the Albion because it was a new varietal for him. I'm totally with you regarding flavor and color trumping size but wen I want to *try* the Albions since I haven't yet.

                                            1. re: Frommtron

                                              you're right Frommtron, its only fair to try them out for yourself.

                                              i just find the media So amusing. we really do eat with our eyes, don't we? see some colossal sized fruit, & we've got to try it. good marketing, I'd say.

                                              Talk to an honest farmer (or UC Davis) that's Not trying to sell you something, and they'll confess Albion & Diamante have been breed/Designed for size, longer shelf life, resistance to pests, higher production yield (ie you can harvest 2x a week, and get more fruit per plant than other types of strawberries).

                                              the taste is not the #1 priority in the cultivation of the Albion nor the Diamante.

                                              footnote : our personal experiences will depend on the particular variety, and also on what time of the season we sample them ( i think strawberries tend to be better mid to late season)
                                              And most of All, the particular farmer; with all his knowledge, skill, and talents & luck.
                                              my hat goes off to the farmer - quite a feat they pull off, year after year!
                                              we're so lucky to be living in california.

                                              1. re: LauraB706

                                                OP here, and I'm a her not he :)
                                                It was a segment on the news and they interviewed a person from Pierce college. i do not recall the name of the variety that they were showing that day, but all I recall is that the person from Pierce college said that it was full of scent and flavor which I find lacking in many strawberries that I find in my area. Where I live we have Thacker Farm berry stands all over, but I have tried and care not for their berries. I am always willing to try something better and appreciate all the suggestions that people have, especially in the Long Beach and south of LB area. Thanks all for the input.

                                                1. re: LauraB706

                                                  When is the strawberry season- the mid to late part of the season? April is the early part, right?

                                                  1. re: hobbess

                                                    It's almost year-round at this point. They take a couple months off around Jan or Feb, I believe, but strawberries are pretty much available in every other month. Of course, they're not always the best strawberries. The seascapes and gaviotas that I like aren't available year-round.

                                              2. re: LauraB706

                                                hmmm, laura, i've been following strawberries for a long time. to me, camarosas are the poster child for "large, firm, tasteless." Granted, the albions are not in the same class as the old chandlers, but it does seem to me that they are usually sweeter and more flavorful than camarosas. seascape can be a very nice berry, but its flavor tends to the citrus-y side rather than that deep, winey flavor you get from a great chandler.

                                                but i do agree with you that farming is everything. a well-grown camarosa, picked when it is almost black (their color changes early, so red can still be immature), will almost always be a better berry than even a chandler that has been badly grown.

                                                and as for strawberry country, we do have some expertise down here, too. both orange county and the oxnard plain have historically been prime strawberry growing areas (and still are, particularly the latter).

                                                1. re: FED

                                                  When I was growing up in OC you couldn't drive too far without seeing a strawberry farm with a stand selling direct to the public. It used to be so easy to get an amazing strawberry that it's sad we need to try so hard these days.

                                                  1. re: Frommtron

                                                    If I had to say which county I consistently got great strawberries from without even trying, it was the OC hands-down. It may have been the soil but I think more so that the higher average daytime temps (compared to Ventura County) had something to do with it. Whatever the case, it seems that abundant strawbs are now almost a thing of the past in OC...

                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                      that's the way it seems to me, too bula. but interestingly, according to the oc ag folks, strawberry acreage actually increased between 2003 and 2006 by about 70 acres and production increased by about 6 tons. their website is a little hard to find historical data on and i've got this stupid work thing, but i'll try to find more later.

                                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                                        I've been going to the Irvine FM, the best FM in OC, and I've been pretty disappointed with the strawberries. But, I'm not sure if any of the farmers selling strawberries there are even growing them in OC.

                                                2. We got some at the Hollywood's Farmer's market yesterday and they were FAB!! A huge hit in our Mother's day celebration

                                                  --Dommy!

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Dommy

                                                    Hey Dommy, what kind did you get? the huge ones? do tell please.

                                                    1. re: justagthing

                                                      We got the Albions that someone was selling. We had tried to find some of the organic tiny berries that someone else had the week before but they weren't to be found. So on a whim sampled and got the Albions and are glad we did. They are huge. Plus the flavor is better than most big strawberries but it is different. This it not the beautiful delicate sweetness of an Alpine but more like the flavor is injected somehow. The flesh Dommy would describe as meaty but I might say a cross between a sponge and styrofoam. Most to the Berries had about 1/4 white flesh inside but it did not affect the flavors. The berries have lasted through today, we'll see about tomorrow. The price was 3 Pints for $5 as my Dad would have said a Hot steaming deal. But do not mistake this as me saying this is the be all and end all of, I prefer the smaller delicate berries and even Gaviotas to these. But if you want to make a visual impression without sacrificing flavor, Like we did decorating a cake, Albions would be it.

                                                      Photos Here
                                                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/36456197...

                                                      Take Care

                                                      - P.