You could buy strawberries at a regular market. Right now, near peak of season, there are nice, even local, berries to be found. And of course, Orange County farmers markets offer strawberries that are not only local but often redder and riper than what’s picked for shipping—though even there you’ll find a range of almost-good to excellent. (Taste, then buy.)
But there is a third way: Farm stands. Open daily and dotted around the county, there is a surprising number of independent stands for your shopping convenience. Even on Mondays, when there’s no farmers market anywhere in O.C., these quaint little markets offer berries, and often other produce, directly from the grower.
Irvine’s got the most, with Smith Farms, Tanaka Farms, and two Manassero Farms stands. Manassero also offers them in Brea and Tustin as well, and Smith has one in Fountain Valley. South Coast Farms is adjacent to the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano. All sell a variety of fruit and vegetables, in some cases supplemented with produce grown by others—usually clearly marked, but don’t hesitate to ask.
Beyond strawberries: Manassero’s shop on the Irvine Valley College campus has food-related gift items, and cut-your-own herbs in raised beds. Tanaka’s farm tours and you-pick opportunities are popular with families as well. And at the Ecology Center next door to South Coast Farms’ stand, eco-exhibits showcase green alternatives for gardening and home.
Smith Farms, 9736 Ellis Ave., Fountain Valley, 714-962-3188; 5481 Bryan Ave, Irvine, 949-726-8366