Well this is a first. I actually dreamed about this post all night. Seriously. In fact, when I woke up this morning, I was pretty sure I had written it already. Strange. Well, there are stranger things. Like those large, red, globular objects at your local grocery store masquerading as strawberries.
This is what I have to say about California Strawberries. Most California strawberries are the ubiquitous kind that you see in grocery stores all over North America (and probably all over other places in the world too). California produces close to 90% of the strawberries in the grocery store market. They are available all year round. They are large and often spectacular looking. They last forever in the fridge thanks to specialized genetic modifications and a solid dousing in chemicals that you don’t want to think about. They have absolutely zero flavour (okay – a tiny tiny tiny bit of flavour, nothing to write home about) and their carbon footprint is horrific. Here’s a great little story about all of this that follows one batch of strawberries from inception to dinner table. A revealing read.
As with most mass produced crops, the California strawberry has lost everything that makes a strawberry delightful and good. For the sake of convenience and annual availability, the California Strawberry Commission and California strawberry farmers have sacrificed pretty much all that is good about the strawberry fruit. The strawberry, or more accurately, the California Strawberry, is number one on the pesticide charts. And pesticides in our food = not good. Ask David Suzuki. Of course, I would be wrong not to also give a shout-out here to Florida strawberries and also to the Mexican strawberries that have been making a show in recent years. These genetically modified Bad Boys have been soaking in chemical anti-aging solutions just as much as their California brethren. The year-round production of strawberries requires massive amounts of energy and the continent-wide export of product means that many people’s so-called “fresh strawberries” have travelled more than 4000 kilometres to get to their table.
All of which is to say that while the California Strawberry Commission would really like for us to be celebrating their product today, I can’t. The California Strawberry of grocery store fame bears little resemblance to the juicy, flavourful little fruit that only shows up from May – October (if you live here in Victoria) or June – August if you live in colder climes. When I was little, I remember picking wild strawberries in the fields and woods around our house. Each one was tiny, no bigger than the tip of my (very little) thumb, but the flavour was huge. If you scour your local farm markets, you might get lucky and find a grower who still produces the classic strawberry – the original, undoctored variety. The kind that bursts with sunshine and sweetness when you pop it in your mouth. If you find that grower, first fall on your knees before them and kiss their feet in gratitude. And then support their business by buying everything they’ve got and sending all your friends there too! That’s what I do every summer and then I package up pounds and pounds of them so that I will have them in the freezer.
I’m not going to lie. On occasion, in the dead of winter, if I get a major craving and my stash has run out, I will cave and buy me some California Strawberries. They do, vaguely, resemble an actual strawberry and can sort of take the edge off. But really, they’re just not the same. And I avoid feeding them to my son because I shudder to think about what all those chemicals would do to his little body. No thanks to Big Business for making this once healthy food near toxic!
Hmmm … this is the second time in as many posts that I have used the phrase “Bad Boy”. Must be time to watch the movie again… Sorry for the rant and no pictures. But this is how I really feel. I should add the final caveat that some California strawberry growers are the variety of which I referred to – the ones who grow real strawberries and whose feet you should kiss. You won’t find their product in your grocery store because it would never survive the journey. If you live in California and you happen to live near one of these growers, you are lucky! But to be fair, their product is not a California strawberry. It’s a strawberry. Which means it’s good :-)