Sunday, April 24, 2016

Life on the Farm...and Strawberry Salsa!

Ever since I started working at Tanaka Farms, I have wanted to put strawberries on everything!  More on those tacos at the end of the post, but for now, keep reading about this beautiful 30 acres I have been spending a lot of time on lately...

This is my new office! I started working part time at Tanaka Farms in February. And let me tell you, it has been (and continues to be) one of the most rewarding experiences ever! From learning some of the basics about responsible farming techniques, to connecting with people, especially children, helping to educate them about the importance of farming, and eating lots of farm fresh vegetables, I am really thankful to have this unique opportunity.

My official title at the farm in Strawberry Tour Guide. And believe you me, I channel my inner Jungle Boat Cruise voice with each and every tour. It's so much fun to tour the farm with big groups...most of the weekday tours we give are to school groups...and watch the little ones taste farm fresh veggies for the first time. It's also a blast to watch them out in the field picking their own strawberries.

And those strawberries! Before working on the farm, I could give a hoot about strawberries. I'm more of a vegetable girl. But, my goodness, are these the best berries I have ever sunk my teeth into. And lucky for me, I get to eat lots of strawberries while I'm at work! I have become a strawberry snob. If they aren't fresh picked from Tanaka Farms, I am simply not interested. Haha. But seriously, nothing tastes better than a red, juicy, sweet, fresh-picked strawberry warmed by the sun. They literally melt in your mouth.

At the farm, all of the strawberries are grown hydroponically in coconut husk grow bags on raised beds. This keeps the strawberries up off the ground and helps to prevent them from getting spoiled from resting in the soil. It also makes them taste better. The farmers work very hard to keep those berries top notch for the guests, and on every tour I give,  at least one person comments on how these are the best berries they've ever had.

Have you ever wondered why some strawberries have funny shapes? The shape of a strawberry depends on how it gets pollinated.  In the center of each flower on the plant is a baby strawberry waiting to turn into a delicious piece of fruit. Surrounding that center are little hairlike structures known as stamens. If each and every little hair doesn't get pollinated, the strawberry will not grow symmetrically.

I could go on all day about strawberries (there are over 200 seeds on every berry, and technically, strawberries aren't even true berries, rather they are an aggregate accessory fruit, but I digress) but I know you all just want me to get to the recipe, so here you go!

Strawberry Salsa Fresca

2 cups chopped ripe strawberries (from Tanaka Farms)
2 cups diced Maui Onion (from Tanaka Farms)
1 cup chopped green onion (from Tanaka Farms)
1 cup chopped cilantro (from Tanaka Farms)
2 tablespoons minced garlic (from Tanaka Farms)
2 tablespoons lime juice
salt, to taste
optional: chopped fresh jalapeno to taste

Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and mix until well combined.
Keep refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use.
Should last up to one week in the refrigerator.

Yield: About 6 cups

Gardein Beefless Tacos with Strawberry Salsa and Cilantro Mayo

For the Gardein Beefless taco meat:
1 package Gardein Beefless Strips, diced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup finely diced Maui Onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

For the Cilantro Mayo:
1 cup vegan mayo (I use  Follow Your Heart Vegenaise)
1/3 cup cilantro (a fistful)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar

shredded cabbage
Strawberry Salsa Fresca (recipe above)
street size corn tortillas, grilled

To make the Gardein Beefless taco meat, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions and saute until translucent and fragrant. Add garlic and Gardein Beefless Strips and cook, tossing constantly, until browned and heated all the way through.

To make the Cilantro Mayo, add all ingredients to a blender and pulse until well combined, but still a little bit chunky. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. I like to keep it in a squeezy bottle for easy drizzling.

To assemble the tacos, start with two grilled tortillas, layer on a pinch of cabbage, Gardein Beefless taco meat, a generous drizzle of Cilantro Mayo, and then pile on the Strawberry Salsa Fresca.



Susan said...

Strawberry Tour Guide... sounds amazing! I am glad you are loving your job there so much. :)
Strawberries are my favourite fruit, but they are also one of the more frustrating fruits to buy in the shops here because so often they end up being smooshy or weird or mouldy in the box. To be able to pick them fresh from the farm and enjoy them in all their glorious perfection... I swoon!

KitteeBee said...

Sounds like you've found yourself a dream job! I had no idea about the shape of strawberries having to do with how many stamen are pollinated, very cool. When strawberries come in here, I'll definitely be making salsa!

Amey said...

ha ha, I love your recipe calling for all the ingredients to be from Tanaka Farms. Now, there's a specialty ingredient! Really though, I'm so happy for you. I feel really lucky to live in Santa Cruz too. We have the UC Santa Cruz Farm & Garden Program here, which is a farming degree program emphasizing organic and sustainable practices. Over the many years, it has really helped build a strong local culture of eating local, seasonally, and organically. We have several year-round farmers markets with loads of amazing organic produce and it's great. I buy about 95% of my produce year-round straight from the people who grew it, and that is so cool. Plus, strawberries. One of my faves. I have TWO special people in my life who are organic strawberry farmers and between the two of them, I frequently receive flats of strawberries as gifts. Lucky me!!

Joni Marie Newman said...

Ha! You're right. That is pretty specific. We really are blessed to live in a place where fresh produce is available all year round <3

Joni Marie Newman said...

It's true! Buying strawberries at the store is difficult. Because, unlike bananas or avocados, strawberries won't continue to ripen after they are harvested. So if they are picked too soon, the will be hard and sour. But if they are picked at their peak of perfection, they won't make it long enough to get to the store and then to your house without getting moldy and squishy. Best bet, buy them from a strawberry stand that delivers daily, or best yet, straight from the farm!

Joni Marie Newman said...

It's so much fun, Kittee! I can't wait for watermelon tours to start!!!

Unknown said...

I like this dish. Thanks for sharing.

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