Roadside Strawberry Stands
Roadside strawberry stands are a common site in Southern California during spring and early summer. The bright red, juicy berries can be used in so many ways – atop your favorite cereal, in breakfast smoothies, tossed in leafy green salads, in a myriad of desserts and baked goods and of course chocolate-dipped. But the first thing I usually do with fresh strawberries is make ice cream. In fact, I just put a batch in the freezer.
Homemade Ice Cream
Bakersfield Strawberries – Old Snow Road
Visiting family in Bakersfield over the weekend we decided to pick up some fresh local strawberries. Bakersfield is at the southern end of the great central valley, the vast agricultural heartland of California. My father-in-law had been telling me about a local farmer who grew the best strawberries. The stand is on Snow Road near Old Farm Road. Just look for cars pulled over at the little green and white shack.
The Smell of Field Strawberries
As soon as I opened the car door I was flooded with the heady smell of fresh strawberries being warmed by the sun. Their fragrance was thick and sweet in the morning air. The open window to the stand was filled with basket upon basket of rich red strawberries. The berries were smaller and nicer than at the stands around our house and although the sign out front did not say organic, I figured they were.
Wanting to know more about these berries we wandered around back and found the grower, Chai Saechao, holding pails piled high with just picked strawberries. His family has been farming strawberries in the area since 1988.We talked with Chai about his beautiful strawberries. The small red ones were Chandlers. He was also growing a few rows of the Albion variety. Chai picked a huge Albion strawberry right off the plant and handed it to me.
Warm from the sun, this huge perfect strawberry was amazingly sweet and juicy. The flavor was incredible. He said the Chandlers were even juicier! And yes, Chai’s berries were organic. Truly, these were the sweetest strawberries I’ve ever tasted, like they were dipped in sugar syrup.
Choose Organic if You Can
You can find conventionally grown strawberries everywhere during the growing season but organic strawberries are more difficult to come by. Why go the extra mile for organic strawberries? Because the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit group focused on public health, lists strawberries as number three on their “Dirty Dozen” list.
If you are not familiar with this list, it helps consumers make healthier food choices in regards to pesticides when grocery shopping. Check out the link and print a copy for yourself to take shopping. Even more, make time to read through EWG’s website for more helpful information.
What To Do With Strawberries
With a half flat of sweet red treasure in my arms we headed back to the house. I planned to take these berries home with me later but couldn’t wait to do something with them. With soup already made for lunch I thought about a quick batch of strawberry muffins.
I turned to the web and found a quick, simple strawberry muffin recipe. Heavenly aromas filled the house as they were baking. Warm from the oven and flecked with diced strawberries just hours from the field they were light, tender and not too sweet. Perfect after lunch and equally good for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
At home, I made a batch of easy double strawberry ice cream for dessert, a sweet end to our Memorial Day dinner of grilled baby back ribs, macaroni salad and deviled eggs.
With strawberries this sweet, no additional sugar was needed. Just two ingredients made for wondeful ice cream – strawberries and sweetened condensed milk. Try this simple recipe and freeze extra berries for strawberry ice cream all summer long.
Helpful links on tools and information
I use a Vita-Mix blender for it’s power and 1 quart capacity. While not inexpensive, they are the best investment. Mine is still going strong after more than 12 years. Order here and get free shipping.
Double Strawberry Ice Cream
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh strawberries stemmed, washed and quartered, about 4 cups
- 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 6 ounces fresh strawberries stemmed, washed and diced small, about 1 cup
- Puree 4 cups of strawberries in a food processor or blender (I use a Vita-Mix, notes below) fitted with a steel chopping blade. Add sweetened condensed milk and puree together to make the ice cream base. Place a fine sieve over a large bowl and pour the ice cream base into the sieve. With a large ladle push the ice cream base through the sieve to remove the strawberry seeds and refine the base.
- Chill the base until very cold. Process the ice cream base in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer directions. Towards the end of the freezing process, add 1 cup of diced strawberries or fold in by hand. Ice cream will be soft when finished. Place ice cream in the freezer for several hours to firm up.