strawberry fields....

Well, I don't know what the Beatles were thinking, (or smoking), but strawberry fields do not last forever. I'm a little embarrassed because I noticed that I was writing strawberry rants last year as well (see June Frog Log archives). And strawberry season is so over, what's the point of mentioning them?

Well, I happened to hear Wes Parson, the Food & Wine columnist for the L.A.Times interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air. Terri Gross asked him what produce item, besides tomatoes, which apparently they had already discussed, suffered the most from modern methods of growing and distributing. There was a longish pause and I just knew what he was going to answer. Yep -- strawberries!

Mr. Parson went on to inform listeners that ripe strawberries truly cannot be shipped. Once he wanted to make a dish with ripe strawberries in the off season. He called all the specialty fruit producers he knew to find someone to send him fresh RIPE strawberries. No one would even talk to him! Finally, one grower relented, as long as Mr. Parsons understoood that the berries were shipped with no guarantee.

Okay, the box came. He opened it up to find masses of packing peanuts. In the center was a smaller box. He opened that up to find more packing peanuts. In the center was a small plastic container. In the center of that was...strawberry jam! Ripe strawberries simply cannot be shipped.

So what about all those berries that are still in the stores after the Michigan strawberry season has long been over? How green did they have to be picked in order to survive a 1000 mile jopurney and not end up as jam? Or, what hybridized variety was planted in order to insure a tougher skin? Think about that before you pick up one of those plastic shell cases full of clunkers!

I saw peaches at the market last Saturday..and cherries...and blueberries. Mr. Watson reminds us that, "Each season has its own stars. Do you want a peach? Why eat an average peach in the winter when you can wait for a fantastic in-season peach?" So besides the arguments that are thankfully now part of a much wider understanding concerning the cost of resources and damage to the environment due to large-scale industrial farming, Mr. Watson reminds us that eating seasonally is also a choice for sheer gustatorial pleasure. No hair shirts on in-season eaters flagellating themselves with locally grown greenery. We have peaches so juicy that our chins and fingers and clothes share the bounty of that first bite; blueberries that happily give us a big blue smile from their robust flavor; cherries that make us chirp!

So goodbye strawberries. It was a great season. You sparkled in the heat and sunshine, offering up a distilled essence of your deep red richness. I was honored to share in your gift; see you next year!


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