This post was sponsored by the California Strawberry Commission. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I sat gazing out of the airplane window with one thing on my mind: strawberries.
No, I wasn’t just caught up in another one of my random food-centric fantasies. I was actually on my way from Atlanta to Monterey to tour some strawberry farms with the California Strawberry Commission. Granted, I was excited and grateful for the opportunity. I was also a little perplexed.
Sure strawberries are delicious, but are they really so special that you’d want to bring a caveman all the way from the other side of the country to see how they are grown?
The next day, finding myself surrounded by a seemingly endless strawberry field while chomping on the juiciest, sweetest berry that I have ever tasted, it all made sense. It turns out that there is a lot special about strawberries, especially in California.
Here are 8 interesting facts that I learned on my trip with California Strawberries.
1. 90% of U.S. strawberries are born in California.
The cool, moderate climate of costal California is an ideal condition for growing strawberries. The state is able to grow strawberries all year round, producing 1.7 Billion pounds of fresh strawberries per year. You’ll find more strawberries per acre in California than anywhere else in the world.
2. Strawberries are still hand grown.
The fragile nature of the strawberry plant makes it one of the few crops that is still planted, weeded, and harvested by hand. It was amazing to learn that workers pack the berries directly into plastic containers right in the field. When you pick up a pack of strawberries at the supermarket, that means only one other person has touched the berries before you.
3. Strawberry farming is a family affair.
On the tour we met Victor Ramirez, a third generation strawberry farmer with a contagious passion for what he does. Having basically grown up on a strawberry farm, Victor rose through the ranks to eventually run his own farming operation. Victor’s story is not an uncommon. Strawberry farming allows more opportunity for advancement and ownership than any other crop, especially for Latinos. They now compromise 2/3 of strawberry growers in California, and 25% of them started as field workers.
4. Strawberries are leading the way in food safety.
Whether conventionally or organically grown, pesticides are a necessary part of effective strawberry production. California has the most restrictive pesticide laws of any state, and strawberry farmers are preparing for even further restrictions by working with researchers to find alternative methods for disease and pest control. One example was the “bug-vac” a giant vacuum that sucks harmful bugs off the plants.
5. Size doesn’t matter.
It is a misconception that the size of strawberries is due to genetic modification or the overuse of synthetic fertilizer. A strawberry’s proportion is actually dependent on what variety it is and the conditions of where it was grown.
6. Strawberries are nutrient powerhouses.
Strawberries are not just tasty, they are loaded with antioxidants and nutrients. A single serving of strawberries is loaded with Potassium, Folate, Fiber, and contains more Vitamin C than an orange.
7. Strawberries might make you smarter.
Due to their high antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory properties, strawberries can boost your brain power. A recent study in the Annals of Neurology shows that eating strawberries at least twice a week could delay cognitive brain aging by 2.5 years.
8. You should be eating 8 a day.
In order to experience the health benefits of strawberries–which may include improved heart health and reducing the risk of some cancers–experts recommend eating a full serving of eight berries a day. Who knew that eating healthy could be so sweet?
For more information on the amazing health benefits of strawberries, be sure to check out the California Strawberries website.
Looking for some interesting ways to use your strawberries? Check out this quick and easy Chicken and Strawberry Summer Salad that I whipped up the other day.
Chicken & Strawberry Summer Salad
- 2 grilled chicken breasts sliced
- 4 oz. prosciutto sliced
- 1 bunch dandelion greens rinsed and roughly chopped
- 2 cup strawberries sliced
- 1 avocado pitted and cubed
- 1/4 red onion thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 5 tablespoons avocado oil
- 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- small pinch sea salt
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the avocado oil, vinegar, an salt. Add the dandelion greens and onions and toss to coat.
Meanwhile, add the almonds to a dry skillet and bring to medium heat. Toast, stirring constantly, until they are golden brown, about 6-7 minutes.
Divide the greens between to plates and top with the chicken, prosciutto, avocado, and strawberries. Garnish with the toasted almonds.