Strawberry Picking along the California Coast

Strawberry Field

Each year I anxiously await the strawberries to ripen at my favorite berry farm, where I annually make a pilgrimage and pick until my heart is content.  I find berry picking so peaceful.  I completely enjoy picking berries along side of a friend chatting, while searching for the perfect berry, and eating it right there and then.  For me, it is truly living in the moment. 

California coastline

Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport is my destination each year for this event.  I enjoy picking both strawberries and blackberries at this farm, but they also grow olallieberries, tayberries, and kiwi for picking by the public.

California Coast highway 1

I always make a day of the excursion since it is a bit of a drive for me from San Jose.  It takes about an hour to drive over highway 17 to Santa Cruz and then north on highway 1 to the berry farm.  I always enjoy lingering at their adorable farm stand and the Slow Coast Shop and see what treasures are to be found.

Swanton Berry Farm

This year, my friend Andrea, her daughter, and her friend joined me.  The three of them were new to picked berries and were excited to give it a try.  The day was mildly cool and the fog was just pulling away from the coast.

Strawberry fields

Swanton Farm provides the cardboard flats for visitors to fill with their picked berries. I enjoyed watching the girls wander the rows of strawberries, laughing and chatting, as they picked the little red gems.  Their long hair blew in the sea breeze as they paused now and then and ate a perfect strawberry.  Andrea was on a quest to find large berries—she eventually discovered a portion of the field that laid unpicked with numerous huge berries. Eureka!  We all joined her and picked like crazy!

Strawberry picking

We stopped for lunch at The Road House in Davenport, which is right on highway 1.  They have delicious sandwiches and paninis, fish, clam chowder, pizzas, and salads.  This year we also stopped at Dig Gardens Nursery in Santa Cruz on the way home.  Dig specializes in succulents, houseplants, and drought tolerant plants that grow well in the northern California coastal region.   The shop is quite unique, unlike any other nursery that I have seen.

Swanton Berry Farm

This year I brought home two flats of strawberries.  As I placed them on the counter in my kitchen, two overwhelming questions come to mind each year, “Now what are you going to do with all those berries?”  And, “When do I have time?”

Swanton Berry Farm

Every year I make strawberry jam with lemon verbena, which I grow in my garden.  I make a variety of jams over the summer but my strawberry jam is hands-down my favorite.   This year I made strawberry ice cream, which I had not made before.  This recipe is from Gourmet Magazine and was a perfect creamy consistency with amazing strawberry intensity.  My family loved it as well as I.  I have provided the recipe below.

Strawberry Ice Cream

Fortunately for us here in California, strawberries are in abundance for such a long season.  Happy picking!

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream,  Gourmet Magazine May 1983 issue

  • 1 pound (about 1 1/4 pints) strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla, or to taste

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in a blender in batches, puree the strawberries and transfer the puree to a bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup of the sugar and the lemon juice and chill the mixture, covered for two hours.

In a heavy saucepan combine the cream, the milk, and the remaining 1 cup sugar and scald the mixture over moderate heat, stirring. In a bowl beat the egg yolks until they are light and thick and pour the milk mixture through a fine sieve in a stream, stirring. Transfer the custard to the pan and cook it over moderately low heat, stirring, until it coats the spoon. Transfer the custard to a metal bowl set in a bowl of cracked ice, stir in the vanilla, and let the custard cool, covered with a buttered round of wax paper. Chill the custard for 2 hours, stir in the strawberry mixture, and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.





  1. Carolyn G. says:

    Delicious!! What a perfect day and love your pics!

  2. Beautiful pictures. Do you share your strawberry jam recipe? Sounds amazing.

    • Hi Kelly,
      Would love to share my Strawberry Jam with Lemon Verbena recipe with you. I will send it to you!!

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