27 Jun2010

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Despite dozens of trips in the past to Baguio, I have never been to the strawberry fields in La Trinidad. Nor have I been to visit the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post nearby. So after years of thinking about it, I decided to take some of the crew and their families up to Baguio for a two day summer outing but snuck in a side trip to La Trinidad for myself… All of the things I had read about La Trinidad suggested it was not far distance wise from Baguio city, but with traffic it could take 40-45 minutes or more. So armed with just newspaper articles and few internet reads, we set off for the strawberry fields and Vegetable Trading Post hoping we would find them at about 30-40 minutes of driving. Well, we went on a low traffic day, and overshot the market by about 15 minutes! Don’t you wish they had mapquest or something similar in the Philippines? :)

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The strawberry fields are very near highly populated areas, not pristine rural landscapes. An enormous fertile flat valley just meters away from the Benguet State University seems to be intensively farmed with berries, greens, etc.

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It had rained heavily the night before, so the fields were wickedly muddy but I wanted to do a post, so I walked several hundred meters to get these shots of strawberries and to pick a few kilos as well. I was in mud up to my ankles. But it was fascinating to see how the berries were planted, the plastic tarps underneath to prevent water loss through evaporation and the keep berries from rotting when they rest on soil.

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The plants seemed to have an abundant crop, and there were thousands of berries everywhere!

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I picked one and popped into my mouth, only after thinking that might not be such a good idea…

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At PHP200 a kilo (bargained to say PHP180), self-picked berries are highway robbery since already picked berries command just PHP100 a kilo. But I guess you are paying for the “experience” and messing up the farmers plots. It took us quite a while to fill up enough baskets to weigh in at two kilos…

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…while in a neighboring field, professional pickers showed us how it was done. Backbreaking work, strawberry picking is… One person heads down each row with two baskets. They move the leaves aside to spot ripe berries, then pre-sort them into small and medium sizes. These folks were picking at a rate 5-10x faster than we could ever do. The quality and freshness of the berries here were amazing. I could think of lots of things I would have wanted to cook or prepare with the fruit… jams, shortcakes, pavlovas, fondues…

 

COMMENTS:

  1. betty q. says:

    What a timely post, MM! It is strawberry season here and I am in FULL strawberry mode with the help of my boys and their friends. They help me pick 3 flats (15 lb. flats) in exchange for 1 case of homemade strawberry jam each time we go picking. They do the picking and I make the jam.

    Jun 27, 2010 | 5:49 am

     
  2. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    How I wish we could easily have access to fresh strawberries here in Cebu. An uncle use to grow them in Mantalongon, Dalaguete some 40 years ago. I think he was just way ahead of the market ;-(

    Jun 27, 2010 | 7:47 am

     
  3. Connie C says:

    Hi bettyQ, I am sooo jealous!

    Jun 27, 2010 | 8:24 am

     
  4. Gay says:

    This reminds me of my stay a few years back in the area. I’m not sure if the hotel is still there, the La Trinidad Valley Hotel? We stayed a few nights, and my sister and I would usually go down early and buy the freshest pick of strawberries, bring them back to the hotel room, and eat them with cream and sugar.
    I think Dole used to have field experiments on strawberries in Polomolok. Not sure if its ongoing.

    Jun 27, 2010 | 9:04 am

     
  5. solraya says:

    MM, the real Strawberry farms are way out. I think fields near BSU were started there for study. I want to see the real wide fields myself too. The good produce comes from there.

    Jun 27, 2010 | 9:12 am

     
  6. Jean says:

    Strawberry season has come and gone in the Southern US, but I do have jars and jars of strawberry preserves (which I put up hours after picking) to show for. I remember being so proud of my first foray into preserving when I took a taste of the jam and thought “Wow! This tastes as good as the Baguio strawberry jam I grew up eating!” Now maybe it’s the cool mountain weather, or the fact that I associate Baguio and strawberries with summer vacation, but that jam is the best I’ve tried (or at least I remember it that way.) I’ve shelled out upwards of $20 for Tiptree’s Little Scarlet, but at best, it reminded me of Baguio’s. I’m looking forward to reading about what you did withthe berries.

    Jun 27, 2010 | 9:43 am

     
  7. dan chingcuangco says:

    wonderful job! promoting our country’s best side. must be nice to visit la trinidad, benquet. to taste phil’s. produce specially those bite size strawberries, besides everything else in between.

    thank u.

    Jun 27, 2010 | 9:47 am

     
  8. JunB says:

    I remember I got cheated once at baguio session road 20 yrs ago wondering if it still a common practice there. There’s two choice, one in basket neatly arrange and another choice where loose strawberrys in the table and choose your own. The one in the basket cost 2x compare to picking your own. So since I don’t want to bother to choose so I take the one in the basket since they all look nice. The worse part is it is a gift to my girlfriend back in Manila. She found out that the strawberry is only halfway full the rest are newspaper below :( ….. since then I stop buying strawberry from baguio :)

    Jun 27, 2010 | 11:35 am

     
  9. Eden says:

    why does my comment not show?

    Jun 27, 2010 | 3:52 pm

     
  10. Miguel P. says:

    Google earth/maps is fairly accurate.

    Jun 27, 2010 | 5:30 pm

     
  11. EbbaBlue says:

    Annually we go strawberry picking here in Texas, but this year we did not for my daughter did not want me to take along her kids (my grandchildren) after reading and hearing about the strawberries in the field close by us (a 45-min. drive). She said I can take them to an organic farm instead, but it was far away (1 1/2 hr. drive). I was upset, for every Feb-March I look forward to picking my own even though the price per pound is same as the ones in the groceries. Its just not the same, no matter how good looking are the ones in the store, the fresh picked ones really taste better.

    Jun 27, 2010 | 9:08 pm

     
  12. Joni says:

    Strawberry fields forever!

    Jun 27, 2010 | 10:12 pm

     
  13. Online Menu says:

    How big are those strawberries ? not the bite size one.
    It looks big

    Jun 27, 2010 | 10:17 pm

     
  14. Connie C says:

    Yes EbbaBlue. Your daughter is right about her concern with the strawberries. We have to pay more or support organic farmers for safer food.

    Here is a list of some of the most pesticide laden fruits/vegetables in descending order:
    1. Peaches 2. Apples 3. Sweet bell peppers 4. Celery 5. Nectarines 6. Strawberries
    7. Cherries 8. Kale 9. Lettuce 10. Grapes (imported) 11. Carrots 12. Pears

    For the home gardener, growing strawberries in hanging baskets or growing celery as guard plants in your garden plot as bettyQ suggested is a good idea. I grow my lettuce in container gardens in my deck ( so as not to compete with the deer and ground hog).

    Strawberries in hanging baskets? Hmmm, I’ll think about that, bettyQ. Better idea? Fly to the Pacific NW and visit you and your garden at strawberry picking time.

    Jun 27, 2010 | 10:40 pm

     
  15. lalaine says:

    its been almost a year since we have moved here in baguio and have never regretted it. A tip for those who buy strawberries. avoid buying from ambulant vendors along the overpass connecting Tiongsan Harrison and Hotel Veniz, or those in parks. Their scales are usually tampered. The selling price from these vendors are lower by 10-30 pesos cheaper but it’s a rob because you dont get the weight you paid for.

    Jun 27, 2010 | 11:44 pm

     
  16. Clarissa says:

    one frustration of mine! I have never picked my own strawberries!

    Jun 28, 2010 | 7:47 am

     
  17. jakbkk says:

    there’s only 1 road leading to La Trinidad Valley from Baguio – Magsaysay Avenue. depending on the time of the year, there are large Japanese variety strawberries in season – but of course at a more expensive price.

    i’ve never noticed ORGANIC being popular in the Baguio or the Philippines – correct me if i am wrong

    —born and raised in Baguio—

    Jun 28, 2010 | 12:03 pm

     
  18. sister says:

    It is almost impossible to find organic strawberries, so eating a few each year dusted with pesticide may might be slightly risky, but how many strawberries does one ingest per year? I cleaned a flat of 8 qts. of local strawberries and they were gorgeously ripe but very few of the guests at a Tea last Saturday ate them, maybe they were used to the crunchy Driscoll from California? Anyway, they all headed for the mangoes instead.

    Jun 29, 2010 | 10:37 pm

     
  19. denise says:

    MM, did you get to try strawberry taho?

    Jun 30, 2010 | 3:26 am

     
  20. Lilibeth says:

    Baguio strawberries are very tart and always have to be eaten with sugar. What I like about strawberries here in the US is that I can pig out on them without adding sugar and even cream because most of them are so sweet and juicy. Come to think of it, I have never eaten sweet strawberries in Baguio – they were either sour or bland.

    Jun 30, 2010 | 4:52 am

     
  21. franz says:

    i so wanna grow my own strawberries! might go on ebay and buy some seed of heat tolerant ones. =D

    Jun 30, 2010 | 1:07 pm

     
 

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