On Sunday, as I headed to Santa Rosa after visiting the Sebastopol Farmers Market, I noticed a number of cars at Lao Saetern's strawberry stand on Highway 12.

Ahhh, the season has begun.

The next morning, the parking lot was again filled with a steady stream of cars.

There was a line of customers at the little stand, too, many buying the maximum number of containers that Saetern allows early in the season, when his strawberries have not yet hit their stride.

Everyone was buying strawberries and several customers were also snagging beautiful bunches of red onions and garlic, with plump cloves still covered in protective soil.

He typically adds a few other summer crops, too, like last year's green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, corn and tomatoes.

The stand began its 2014 season about two weeks ago. Currently, it is open several days a week, though not every day.

Nature determines. When there are berries, the stand is open; when there aren't, it isn't.

Saetern has two varieties of strawberries, Albion and Chandler. Both produce berries that range in size from fairly small, about 1-inch from stem to tip, to fairly large, about 4 inches in circumference.

Pop one in your mouth and something magical happens, as sweet juices spread across your palate and a smile spreads across your face.

These are strawberries that taste like — what a thrill — strawberries, with all the succulence the strawberry fairies intend.

They are so good that I have not done anything at all with them, except for eating them neat.

Like many small farmers these days, Lao Saetern, who is from Thailand, does not do all the paperwork required for organic certification but he does not use pesticides.

He also takes a live-and-let-live approach to critters, letting the blackbirds, wild turkeys and gophers share in his harvest.

The occasional raccoon helps itself, too, but other creatures, including the ravens that live in the nearby Laguna de Santa Rosa, don't seem interested.

Lao Saetern's strawberry stand, founded in 2007, is located at 555 Highway 12, between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol and just west of Duer Road.

It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., unless the daily harvest sells out early. You can reach Saetern at 731-7637.

<i>Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.</i>

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