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In Search of "Old School" Strawberries (...and I don't mean those Frankenberry Monsters)

Hi all, I'm originally from the Pacific Northwest and loved the small, densely flavor-packed berries that grew aplenty on the Kitsap Peninsula. Fast forward to current times and I've now lived in San Diego for 15 years - and still haven't found anything close! When I see those gigantic monster strawberries with the bitter, white cores that take up the entire inside, I want to scream, wail and gnash my teeth (well, I've grown weary of that now, but I still feel sad that it's come to this). I currently live near SDSU, but work near UTC. Does anyone know of a good strawberry source? Of course I'd prefer organic, but knowing me, I won't be able to resist any truly good strawberry....and failing that, how can I make the "normal" ones taste better? Liqueur? Any suggestions will be appreciated - I'm planning on making Strawberry Shortcake this weekend.


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  1. You gotta hit the farmer's markets. Personally, I go to the Hillcrest Farmer's Market on Sundays, but the Little Italy Mercato is just as good. San Diego (actually Carlsbad and Oceanside) grow quite a lot of conventionally-grown strawberries. The reason they're substandard is because the berries are picked before they're ripe for shipping across the country. Strawberries picked for the farmer's markets are meant to be sold right away, so even the conventionally-grown strawberries are picked the day before and taste a lot better. For older-school (heirloom?) strawberries that are grown organically, look for Suzie's Farm or Sage Mountain Farms in particular.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jmtreg

      Thanks for the specific farm names. I must admit, I've been putting off several farmers markets because parking is such an issue. It might be worth it to turn up just prior to opening.

    2. Take a drive up to Chino Farms on the weekend. They have a couple of varieties that are grown organically. The tiny little french strawberries cost more but they are red and sweet as candy throughout.

      5 Replies
      1. re: foodiechick

        Thanks for the suggestion. I've read about Chino farms and I've been meaning to look them up for other items as well. Sounds like a good weekend destination...

        1. re: foodiechick

          I'm with FC on this topic -- BEST strawberries I've EVER had were the French strawbs I picked up last summer (multiple times) at Chino Farms. While you're there, grab a dozen ears of the BEST corn you'll ever eat too. None better.

          1. re: bizzwriter

            I was at Chino today. No French strawberries, but their standard ones are outstanding. Not a huge quantity available, though.

            1. re: Divamac

              How much do they cost at Chino Farms?

              1. re: pantani

                If you have to ask, you can't afford them.

        2. Have you tried Lisko Deli? They have a small amount of produce - not sure if they get Strawberries, but tend to have organic, local produce.

          Grower's Direct on University in La Mesa (just East of 70th Street) might be a good place to check as well.

          I never had problems parking at the La Mesa Farmers Market, but haven't been to the new location.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JRSD

            Just read the Yelp reviews on both places and plan on giving each a visit. Thanks so much!

          2. I've had good luck with Williamson Produce just off the 78 (Jefferson St Exit), Ivy Road, in Oceanside. They have small berries as well as long stem and larger varities. They only pick their berries when they're ripe, no white tastless centers.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cstr

              Thanks for this. I am going to bookmark the place for when I have time to make the drive. I really prefer going straight to the source and knowing they are a "sure thing" has my mouth watering!

            2. Recently had sublime, organic strawberries (big ones, not fraise des bois) from a vendor at Tues Pacific Beach Farmer's Mkt. Bet you can find them at any farmer's market but sometimes you must ask if organic and to taste.

              1. I'm a bit curious where you've been buying bad strawberries in San Diego? I've probably bought strawberries at ten different farmers' markets from a couple dozen different farms over the years and I seem to always get pretty good berries, and often great berries. I especially like them from JR organic farm, I think it's in or near Escondido. Hope you'll find some you like!

                9 Replies
                1. re: Idyllwild

                  I was thinking the same thing, we gota have some of the best berries in the world.

                  1. re: cstr

                    Yes, but, have you ever read about the strawberry pesticide (methyl iodide)? It's one of the most toxic agricultural products in our food chain. Because of it, I've avoided all commercial strawberries for years. Any berries grown around us that aren't organic may taste great but could be slathered with this poison or something like it. From googling it appears that MI has been pulled from U.S. use, but not sure what is used in its place now.

                    1. re: pickypicky

                      It's good that Midas (methyl iodide) wasn't approved/pulled from the approval process in the US as it is a "nice" DNA alkylating agent (when you use it in the lab you always make sure that you have a very high level of protection. So it is hard to see how you want to use it on something edible, especially with a low LD50). Unfortunately if you read some of the review papers on pesticides/fungicides used in agriculture (not only for strawberries) it should become very clear why buying organic is the only way to go to avoid most of these chemicals. (and even organic regulation is getting changed to the worse over the last years especially for processed organic food -> good article in the NYT recently).


                      1. re: pickypicky

                        I hear what you're saying but, honestly I've never had strawberries, or should I qualify never purchased berries if they didn't look beautiful and ripe, such as the OP had described, especially here in SD.

                      2. re: cstr

                        Oh man, trust me, we don't have them here in San Diego (unless perhaps the rare varieties at Chino Farms). Northwest berries are superior --all of them! :-) But hey, terrible weather the rest of the year - I'll take the weather here any day!

                      3. re: Idyllwild

                        I stopped buying them in San Diego years ago for the most part. Sometimes (maybe once per year, tops) I will get them from a friend who has a produce stand near their house. I have the same issues with Tomatoes. I grow my own organic heirloom tomatoes in the summer and don't buy many during the rest of the year. I can't stand how the flavor is bred right out. Even Trader Joe's / Whole Foods heirloom tomatoes (when in season) don't taste nearly as good as the ones I grow from my back patio!

                        1. re: fraidycat3

                          That's because you're buying them from grocery stores. The funniest thing I see on Sundays is Trader Joe's selling strawberries 2-3 blocks away from the Hillcrest Farmers' Market, for close to the same price. Again, grocery stores don't like ripe fruit, because ripe fruit spoils. The carton of strawberries I purchased last Sunday were so ripe that they were practically rotting by Wednesday (and wow, were they good).

                          1. re: jmtreg

                            Close to the same price? I've never seen the 3-pint strawberry boxes go for under $7 at the farmers markets. What TJ's sells is around $2.50 for a pound (roughly 2 pints), so we are probably talking twice as much at the farmers markets.

                            Not that I don't think the price differential is worth it, of course. :)

                            1. re: jmtreg

                              Excellent statement jmtreg, I never buy strawberries from a super market for the reason you stated. Especially here in So CA, where we not only have the option to buy direct from the growers but, also great farmers markets. And yes, when I buy them they must be eated and enjoyed without hesitation!

                        2. "how can I make the "normal" ones taste better? "

                          Not for your shortcake perhaps, but a small splash of good balsamic vinegar on strawberries is delicious.