One Sunday, earlier this month, we made an excursion from San Francisco down to Sunnyvale--where Karina and I had spent a good portion of our childhood--for a quick drive-by to check out our old haunts, then continued towards the coast to Santa Cruz for a full-on beach day by the boardwalk. After a few hours of fun in the sun, we made our way back towards San Francisco via the Pacific Coast Highway. Along the way, somewhere between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay we made a stop at the Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport, right alongside the PCH.
We'd never heard of the Swanton Berry Farm until we caught June Taylor's workshop at Copia the week before, but once we did we seemed to keep hearing "Swanton Berry Farm" everywhere we went. June Taylor mentioned that Swanton Berry Farm's strawberries were the ones she preferred for her preserves and syrups; she was among many in the Bay Area who seem to consider Swanton Berry Farm's strawberries the best in America. We'd gotten the impression that Swanton Berry Farm was down by Watsonville and we were planning on paying them a visit as part of an excursion to the Monterey/Carmel area. Good thing we chanced upon their actual location in Davenport, because we never did make it down to the Monterey Bay area.
It's not hard to see why Swanton Berry Farm's strawberries are so choice. The coastal region it occupies is both scenic and fertile, and the conditions there are certainly ideal: lots of warm, sunny days, and plenty of nice, cool fogbound nights. Add to this the fact that the farm is 100% organic and that it operates entirely on union labor, and you have the perfect environment for the perfect strawberry.
It was about 6:00 PM at the time that we pulled into Swanton Berry Farm's gravel parking lot and we were pleasantly surprised to see that not only was their shop still open, but their U-Pick strawberry field was too. We didn't have time to stop and pick strawberries because we had a rendez-vous back in San Francisco, but we went into the shop to see what they had on offer. We sampled one strawberry and that was all it took. Next to the wild strawberries we feasted on as kids on our summer vacations in Eastern Quebec, these were easily the best strawberries Karina and I had ever had. They were unbelievably sweet, but like all great fruit, it wasn't just about the sweetness; these strawberries had real depth of flavor and great texture. We gave one last thought to going the U-Pick route ($1.50 per pound for the best organic strawberries you could possibly imagine was more than a little tempting), then picked out 3 very generous baskets of strawberries for $7.00 (still a great price). In addition to having fresh picked strawberries, the shop also sells homemade pies, homemade preserves, homemade gelato, and a whole host of other treats. Best of all, it operates on an "honor till" system.
We hopped back into the car and continued to head north along the PCH. The views were great, but that basket of strawberries that we polished off in the car was even better. It took true restraint to save the other two baskets for preserves.
Swanton Berry Farm, Pacific Coast Highway, Davenport, CA
For more information, check out their excellent website at: http://www.swantonberryfarm.com/