Last Saturday, I made my usual trip to the UC Irvine farmer's market, and noticed that many of the vendors sold strawberries out of similar looking cardboard flats that indicated origin from either Carlsbad or somewhere in the Central Valley. While they looked ripe and plump and red, they had very little flavor. I samples the berries at several of the stands selling this stuff with the same result: firm, pulpy berries with no sweetness, no tartness, very little strawberryness.
Then I went to an older Japanese couple who grow their Chandler variety berries in Brea. Now these tasted and looked great, like how you'd expect farmers market berries to be. These were really at their peak and I should have eaten more immediately because many went bad the next day. I asked this man what the deal was, and he told me that the other vendors are reselling produce grown by some industrial farm. Aren't there rules at the markets that govern that vendors must sell their own produce? Like anything else, buyer beware, I guess.
If you're not a regular at your local farmers' market, may I suggest you visit these growers that work hard to give you great tasting (rather than merely great looking) produce? Organic produce sometimes looks bug-eaten, or even show up at the market with little critters living in the leaves. This is actually a good thing, cuz it indicates the produce hasn't been sprayed with pesticides. You'll taste the difference, and appreciate that your money's supporting people who really deserve it.
That said, the best strawberries I've tasted came from Chino Farms in Rancho Santa Fe: wild berries called Mar du Bois (I'm probably off on my spelling). These are tiny little berries are packed with sugar and flavor - nothing else comes close. Now - does anyone know of a source where these can be bought without the trip all the way to RSF? How about a source for some Mar du Bois plants?