Summer has arrived, in Laurie Carter's mind, when strawberries can be purchased ripe from the fields at Hanley Road and Rossanley Drive.
"I like to freeze 'em, so I have 'em all year," says Carter, 48. "And I always make jam — freezer jam — the easy way."
Like other regular customers who crowd the inconspicuous gravel lot, Carter appreciates the berries' sweetness and that they're grown just down the road from her Medford home. Kao Saefong, a 39-year-old resident of Redding, Calif., has been leasing the fields for strawberry production over the past five years. It didn't take long to work up a loyal following from the likes of Carter and Roy Fancher, 85, of Medford.
"This is the only place to get them," Fancher says.
"It's better than them California things," he adds. "They're nice and red on the outside, not green."
So it may come as a surprise to Fancher and other discriminating customers that Saefong opened for the season with strawberries grown near Redding before stocking the stand with local berries in time for Memorial Day weekend. The cold spring meant a later harvest than usual, says Saefong's wife, Fey Saechao, 37. However, the weather has benefitted auxiliary crops of red onions and garlic grown across a dirt road from the strawberry patch.
"She just told me they have great garlic," Carter says.
Supply permitting, Saefong's extended Thai family brings all their crops to Medford meetings of the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market, held Thursdays at the Medford Armory. Saechao says their attendance at this week's market is a good possibility, provided she and her cousin can pick enough for the farm stand and market stall. Strawberry season usually runs all summer, Saechao says.
An average harvest is about 40 to 50 gallons daily, Saechao says. Prices are $21 per flat, $12 per half-flat, three baskets for $7, two baskets for $5 or $2.50 per basket.
Whether they make the short trip from the field to buyers or travel across town, the strawberries sell out within a matter of hours, which savvy customers well know. The farm stand opens at about 7 a.m. and closes when the berries are gone.
"They'll be out of strawberries before the day's over," Fancher says, adding that he planned to enjoy his with shortcake and Cool Whip.
But the sun-warm berries beckon before Fancher can get them inside his pickup. Using his truck's tailgate as an improvised picnic table, he and his wife enjoy a quintessential taste of summer.
Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.