Strawberries and eight balls

This year's berry crop said to be "one of a kind"

Stehly Farms Organics expects larger-than-average attendance at its annual Strawberry U-Pick Festival on April 8.
  • Stehly Farms Organics expects larger-than-average attendance at its annual Strawberry U-Pick Festival on April 8.

It’s strawberry season for San Diego farms, meaning baskets of the bright, red fruit will be plentiful in April. Expect to find many locally grown strawberries at farmers markets across the county, and taste the sweetness coming off our wet winter.

Eight ball squash — ideal for stuffing

Eight ball squash — ideal for stuffing

Up in Escondido, JR Organics says this year’s crop of organic berries offer smell, color, and taste that are “one of a kind.” It will also see summer squashes start to come into season, including zucchini, the straight-neck gold bar squash (also called yellow zucchini), and eight ball squash, which shares the flavors and speckled green skin of zucchini, but with a spherical shape that’s better for stuffing.

Rodney Kawano’s farm in Oceanside also has strawberries and summer squash coming in, plus onions coming midmonth. On the cruciferous side, it continues to furnish broccoli and Brussels sprouts, while vegetable options also include snow peas, carrots, kale, and Swiss chard. Among Kawano’s unusual offerings are mushrooms, with Shitake, oyster, crimini, and white button mushrooms for sale at his market stands.

Loquats, part of the apple family

Loquats, part of the apple family

Bonsall’s Adam Maciel Organic Farm doesn’t offer strawberries, but its loquats are coming back into season. The Maciels see fewer of the tart fruit coming in compared to last year, but they’re also larger. Since these juicy apple relatives don’t ship well, finding them locally is key. On the vegetable side, their market stands will feature the usual assortment of leafy greens, fresh herbs, and root vegetables, including Japanese turnips, which tend to be milder and sweeter, with delicate enough skin that the whole thing can be enjoyed raw.

Past Event

Strawberry U-Pick Festival

  • Saturday, April 8, 2017, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Stehly Farms Organics, 12630 Santa Catalina Road, Valley Center
  • $6 - $7

Out in Valley Center, Stehly Farms has strawberries in a big way, and anticipates larger-than-average attendance at its annual Strawberry U-Pick Festival on April 8. It's seeing the tail end of its orange season, though plenty of blood oranges remain, and it’s prime time for Stehly tangerines. The organic farm’s also beginning to harvest its Hass avocados in April and, vegetablewise, they tell me an asparagus crop “is really poppin right now.”

Second generation California farmer Jerome Stehly founded Stehly Ranch to raise chickens back in 1962. It quickly evolved into one of the area’s larger produce growers, and today the 278-acre ranch grows avocados, citrus, strawberries, blackberries, and assorted vegetables. Stehly’s sons, Jerome and Noel, took over the farm in 2002, and the brothers changed the name to Stehly Farms Organics, to reflect the property’s certified organic designation.

In addition to its Strawberry picking event, the farm opens to the public to pick from its pumpkin patch in October, and hosts a blackberry fest in June. But the farm’s best known for its tree crops. Its Hass and reed harvests are a huge reason San Diego’s the largest producer of avocados in the nation. It also raises quite a lot of citrus fruit, including grapefruit, orange, and tangerine varieties.

Locally, Stehly produce is sold in its proprietary Stehly Farms Market locations in Bay Park and Kensignton, as well as larger grocery outlets such as Jimbo’s, Whole Foods, Cream of the Crop, Seaside Market, and the People’s Market co-op in Ocean Beach.

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