Situated amidst the breathtaking national parks of Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia, Fresno County in California stands as one of America’s most fertile agricultural regions. While it may not flaunt sandy beaches and bustling boardwalks like its western counterparts, it invites visitors to uncover a different facet of the Golden State—an emerging farm-to-fork food scene that thrives on exceptional produce and the power of food to bring communities together.
At the heart of Fresno County lies its sprawling farmland, spanning nearly 200 million acres and nurturing over 300 diverse crops. This rich agricultural landscape yields an abundant array of seasonal produce, waiting to be savored at the source.
For a taste of local excellence, head to the family-owned Basilwood Farm, where both locals and tourists flock to participate in cheesemaking workshops and stock up on their renowned goat’s cheese. Another gem is Circle K Ranch, a multi-generational family farm established in 1946. Their expansive orchards bear a cornucopia of fresh stone fruits, from peaches and plums to nectarines and raisins.
Fresno County is renowned for its farm-to-fork culinary experiences, showcased in various events throughout the region. An example is the Taco Truck Throwdown, where food trucks congregate to serve their most imaginative creations.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MIKE OSEGUEDA, FRESNO STREET EATS
Seasonal delights await those who time their visit right. August and September herald the reign of perfect peaches, while May and June are a strawberry lover’s paradise. Mike Osegueda, President of Fresno Street Eats—an organization coordinating street food events—recommends these periods, stating, “Both peach and strawberry seasons are ideal times to visit. Local restaurants and food trucks incorporate these fruits into their menus, and you’ll even find peach and strawberry-flavored beers at nearby breweries.”
Fresno County takes pride in celebrating its culinary heritage throughout the year. The Fresno County Blossom Trail, open from mid-February to mid-March, offers a 70-mile route showcasing events, farms, fruits, and breweries amidst blossoming landscapes. From mid-May to July, the Fresno County Fruit Trail allows visitors to savor freshly grown produce, meet local farmers, and delve into the area’s history and culture against a backdrop of stunning vistas.
Annual events such as the autumn Taco Truck Throwdown and June’s Peach Al Pastor parties add excitement to the culinary calendar. During the latter, taco trucks serve up traditional al pastor tacos, featuring locally grown peaches alongside spit-grilled meat slices. Mike enthuses, “It’s a remarkable collaboration between America’s top peach growers and our food trucks, extending beyond just tacos. They also serve peach salsas and peach aguas frescas (fruit-based drinks)!”
The food scene in Fresno County offers tremendous variety, with local ingredients transforming into dishes ranging from tacos to Thai mac and cheese.
PHOTOGRAPH BY VISIT FRESNO COUNTY
However, Fresno County’s culinary delights extend beyond conventional fruits. The area’s farms owe their diverse and surprising offerings, in part, to the significant presence of Southeast Asian farmers, particularly the Hmong community. Many Hmong farmers fled Laos in the 1970s and now cultivate Southeast Asian crops like aubergines, lemongrass, and moringa. To relish these flavors at their finest, visit Fresno County in late December during its annual Hmong New Year Celebration—the country’s largest. Don’t miss the chance to savor the delicious green papayas, best enjoyed in a tangy salad alongside grilled chicken, cucumber, and daikon.
Opportunities to sample such delicacies in their freshest form are never far away. Mike explains, “Farmers’ stalls can be found near fast food drive-throughs, and markets stand across the street from furniture stores.” The year-round Old Town Clovis Farmers Market, located in downtown Clovis, is a favorite among locals. Here, visitors can browse fresh produce and artisanal goods while discovering local businesses. “This accessibility, coupled with the availability of agricultural produce, makes the area truly special,” adds Mike.
Fresno County has magnetized chefs passionate about working intimately with ingredients and championing farm-to-fork dining. Ian Cookson, head chef and owner of Libelula—a creative farm-to-table restaurant in Downtown Fresno—enthuses about strawberries. “At Libelula, we love showcasing this underappreciated berry in various delightful ways, honoring Fresno’s bountiful offerings.” The restaurant’s menu boasts strawberry nachos, strawberry and burrata spring pasta, alongside specialties like banh mi sandwiches, spicy Thai mac and cheese, and breakfast fried rice.
This relentless pursuit of innovation with top-quality local produce distinguishes Fresno County’s chefs and solidifies the area’s reputation as a culinary hotspot. In Old Town Clovis, Trelio Food & Wine incorporates goat’s cheese from nearby Rocky Oaks Goat Cremery into a unique twist on vadouvan arancini (deep-fried rice balls flavored with Indian spices). Just across the street, The Local utilizes seasonal ingredients sourced from nearby farmers to create a farm-fresh take on American cuisine, featuring popular dishes like blue garlic fries and artichoke shrimp scampi.
Mike shares an anecdote, highlighting the area’s shared passion for food, “Recently, in a quick conversation, someone and I ended up comparing notes on taco trucks. We both had lists on our phones of the trucks and dishes we needed to try.” It’s a testament to the quality of the culinary scene and the power of word-of-mouth recommendations, rendering viral marketing campaigns and influencer endorsements unnecessary. “While we may not have the glitz or be as ‘on-trend’ as some of our California neighbors, we have ingredients sourced from our soil, passionate individuals, diverse culinary influences, and an abundance of fantastic dining options,” asserts Mike.
Plan your trip
Flights from London to San Francisco and Los Angeles offer convenient access to Fresno Yosemite International Airport. Alternatively, a short drive from both cities will lead you to Fresno County. Once there, explore farmers markets, events, and trails using the Fresno County app. For further information, visit visitfresnocounty.org.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about farm-to-fork
What is the farm-to-fork food scene in Fresno County, California?
The farm-to-fork food scene in Fresno County, California refers to the culinary movement that emphasizes using locally sourced and fresh ingredients from the region’s abundant farmland. It involves a passion for high-quality produce and a deep respect for how food can bring communities together.
What are some popular events showcasing the farm-to-fork experience in Fresno County?
Fresno County hosts various events to celebrate the farm-to-fork experience. Examples include the Taco Truck Throwdown, where food trucks gather to serve creative dishes, and the Fresno County Blossom Trail, a scenic route featuring events, farms, and breweries amidst blossoming landscapes. Additionally, the Fresno County Fruit Trail allows visitors to sample freshly grown produce and interact with local farmers.
What are some notable farms and produce in Fresno County?
Fresno County boasts numerous notable farms and a wide variety of produce. Basilwood Farm, a family-owned establishment, offers cheesemaking workshops and legendary goat’s cheese. Circle K Ranch, with its multi-generational farming tradition, produces an array of fresh stone fruits. Additionally, the presence of the Hmong community has brought Southeast Asian crops like aubergines, lemongrass, and moringa to the region.
Which are some recommended restaurants or eateries in Fresno County?
Fresno County has a thriving food scene with several recommended restaurants. Libelula, a farm-to-table restaurant in Downtown Fresno, showcases creative dishes featuring local produce, such as strawberry nachos and burrata spring pasta. Trelio Food & Wine in Old Town Clovis offers unique twists on dishes using ingredients like goat’s cheese. The Local, also in Old Town Clovis, specializes in farm-fresh American cuisine, including dishes like blue garlic fries and artichoke shrimp scampi.
How can I access Fresno County and explore its culinary offerings?
Fresno County is conveniently accessible by flights to San Francisco or Los Angeles, followed by a short drive or direct flight to Fresno Yosemite International Airport. Visitors can also drive from these cities to reach the county. Once in the area, the Fresno County app provides information on farmers markets, events, and trails. For more details, visit the website visitfresnocounty.org.