Strawberry Taste Test

Img_6682We bought two of pints of strawberries this week: one pint of Camarosas (the pint on the left side of the photo), which are a Southern Californian variety that you see a lot in farmer’s markets around here. And one pint of Chandlers (on the right), another local variety, which you see less often. In my experience, Chandlers have more complexity, more background flavor offsetting a sweetness that is never quite as sugary as the more popular Camarosas. While we’re a bit early in the season for that swoon-inducing sugary unctuousness of perfect strawberries, these were definitely worth buying: they had good flavor, nice texture, and tasted like a strawberry should. And I figured we were ready for a little gastrokid taste test.

5 year old Violet was the taster and she said she preferred the Camarosa. Why: “Because they have more flavor.”

What kind of flavor, I asked, bitter, sour, salty, sweet? “Sweet,” she answered.

I tried them both myself. Indeed, the Camarosas were more like candy. The Chandlers had an acidic backbone and more character, but yes, the Camarosas were sweeter. Such is the power of sugar. Such is the local market dominance of the Camarosa.

I’m curious: what other regional varieties should gastromoms and dads and kids be looking for if they find themselves in other parties of the US (or the world, for that matter) this spring? If you’ve got a favorite strawberry variety, farmstand, or farmer’s market, let us know where and when to go, and what to buy.
—Hugh

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6 Responses to Strawberry Taste Test

  1. JulieB says:

    I’m in Ventura County (maybe a little far north for you), and I usually get my strawberries from Underwood Family Farms in Somis, on Hwy 118 and Somis Rd., or from “Oxnard’s Best Berries” at the Camarillo Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. I haven’t been to the farmer’s market yet this year, but I had some berries from Underwood last week and they were great. Not sure what variety they are, but I’d lean towards the Camarosa, since they were pretty sweet.

  2. angela says:

    Can you pass along the details of the 20 min shrimp fajitas as well:-)

  3. The city of Evanston, just north of Chicago has a wonderful Saturday market during the summer. But one of our favorite farmer’s markets takes place at Eli’s Cheesecake World on the northwest side of Chicago. They work with the Chicago School for Agricultural Sciences and host several farmers who provide organic and heirloom veggies. After loading up on the healthy stuff, you’ll want to step inside their cafe for a delicious dessert or a factory tour. You can read more here: http://scrambledcake.blogspot.com/2006/08/elis-cheesecake-world-life-is-uncertain.html
    If you want the farm-fresh food to come to you, check out this list of CSA that serve the Chicago metro area: http://www.familyfarmed.org/ (click on the 2007 Chicagoland CSA map)

  4. There are so many varieties of strawberries, oranges, lemons, and on and on that it is just incredible. I find that the best way to sort them out is to shop at the farmer’s markets, speak to the farmers, and taste, taste, taste. It makes for delcious education.

  5. Kim says:

    After attending the FamilyFarmed.org EXPO I have to add one more for Chicago–the Green City Market which takes place in Chicago’s Lincoln Park on Wednesdays and Saturdays from May – October. This appears to be the granddaddy of organic, local produce and other artisan foods. http://www.chicagogreencitymarket.org/about_mission.asp

  6. Dr. Pugawug says:

    Not sure of the variety names, but in San Francisco there are two outstanding strawberry stands at local markets. Lucero’s stand at the Ferry Plaza market has tiny, delicate field strawberries, while Rodriguez Farms at the Alemany market has the sweetest, plumpest medium-to-large berries for only $5-8 a half flat.

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