Everything You Need to Know About Harry’s Berries, the Strawberries With a Cult Following
It might seem unusual for a strawberry to have a cult following, but Harry’s Berries are just that good. Come spring, hundreds of tags on Instagram pop up daily—restaurant dishes specially designed to showcase the berries, popular recipe developers and home cooks alike perfecting their pies and shortcakes, overjoyed fruit lovers who’ve happened on them at a grocery store or farmers market. With posts spreading the good word of Harry’s Berries, from recipe developer and Contributing Editor to Bon Appetit Claire Saffitz to Chef Wolfgang Puck to the culinary team at Martha Stewart, in the past month, these humble strawberries have really been getting their close-up.
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“The flavor is unlike any strawberry I've ever had before,” Zach Watkins, Executive Chef at Toro NYC, told me in an email. “We try to create dishes based around these berries. We don't use strawberries when they're out of season so instead we try to preserve and pickle them when they are in season so that we can have some fun things to play around with in the winter months.”
Eddie Zheng, co-owner of The Little One, a Japanese dessert shop in Manhattan, created their strawberry Kakigōri with Harry’s Berries in mind: “the strawberry is red throughout so it’s got great color. They're sweeter and juicier with a nice aroma compared to other store bought strawberries.”
Watkins and Zheng both learned about Harry’s Berries while working at other East Coast restaurants a few years ago. Of course, many West Coasters have been in the know for more than 50 years. Harry Berries is a family farm in Oxnard, California, that’s been growing non-commercial, specialty varieties of strawberries for decades. Opened by Harry Iwamoto in 1967, the farm is now run by Iwamoto’s daughter Molly and her husband Rick Gean. Though not certified Organic due to regulations and cost, the Geans have grown everything on their farm (in addition to their strawberries, they produce an incredible selection of beans and tomatoes) without synthetic chemicals since 1998. They sell their produce at a number of farmers markets in California.
The Geans specialize in Gaviota and Seascape strawberries, two non-commercial varieties of berries that are deeply fragrant, and significantly sweeter and more juicy than strawberries you’d find at a typical American grocery store. However, the berries are picked at such prime ripeness that their flesh is extremely delicate, which meant that for years the berries couldn’t be shipped far outside California. But a few years ago, an executive at wholesaler Baldor Specialty Foods tried the berries and swore to bring them across the country. Now, Baldor supplies the Berries to a number of grocery stores and restaurants on the east coast, particularly in New York and Washington, DC. They were available for on grocery delivery platform FreshDirect earlier this season, but are currently unavailable, but some New Yorkers might be able to purchase Harry’s Berries at Eataly, the Park Slope Food Co-op, and certain Fairway Markets.