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Well, I've started buying strawberries again since last Sept/Oct.  I've been seeing more strawberries from CA in the grocery store at a reasonable price.  I keep buying strawberries with high hope they will taste like the berries my granmother used to offer me or the berries I use to buy in NJ (I lived about 200 yards from a field that grew berries in the spring in the mid 90s).  And the problem is they never do.

The berries I used to get were small, deep/dark red and very tasty.  The berries I get now are poor imitations.  The are large, light red and card boardy.  So are the major grower just selecting out the flavor for looks, shelf life and transportability (aka red delicious apples)?

If all the stuff at grocery stores are poor (very rarely do I hit a decent batch) where do you score your berries and what varieties do you go for?

Still searching for a great strawberry...

Soup

We have a similar problem in the UK where the demand for strawberries is greater than what the domestic growers can produce in a relatively short season.

The result is that the supermarkets import large pale hard fruit mainly from Spain which are not really fit for human consumption.

Strangely enough I go to Spain quite a lot and have never really seen fruit of such low quality on sale there so it's down to a huge supermarket conspiracy I'm afraid who buy fruit for it's durability not taste. :angry:

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I've no idea because I'm three generations away from Minnesota and Illinois. Yes, hopelessly a Californian, but I can't help it. I just enjoy our natural beauty.

I would ask farmers at your local market (when they open) or your local extension agent or any enthusiastic gardeners... Or ask at Johnny's seeds, they're full of that kind of information...

cg

That's good advice. I'll add some encouragement. U.E, I don't know where in the Midwest you are, but I can assure you that wonderful strawberries grow wild in the woods here in Northern Minnesota, and some people cultivate those same berries. I don't know if they're the same as the Alpine berries (my attempt to grow that cultivar failed) but they look much the same. Alpine or no, I can tell you that good strawberries grow up here for a short time. We're almost as far north as you can be in the Midwest while remaining a Yank...so if you're from southern Minnesota, even, or farther south, yes - you should have the climate to grow good strawberries. Talk to your extension agent about the proper soil, sun, planting, etc.

Hmm. The cultivar is important. When I go home to central California (inland from chardgirl) and get strawberries from the stand, they're usually a bit smaller than the grocery store strawberry-flavored styrofoam things, which are (I suspect) grown on some equivalent of strawberry steroids. (No, I don't know if there's such a thing, but the idea of berries pumped up like Conan the Barbarian appeals to me.) The locally grown strawberries, when they finally hit their season, are smaller than the farmstand berries of California and considerably smaller than the supermarket variety, but they still never could be mistaken for wild strawberries.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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I've no idea because I'm three generations away from Minnesota and Illinois. Yes, hopelessly a Californian, but I can't help it. I just enjoy our natural beauty.

I would ask farmers at your local market (when they open) or your local extension agent or any enthusiastic gardeners... Or ask at Johnny's seeds, they're full of that kind of information...

cg

That's good advice. I'll add some encouragement. U.E, I don't know where in the Midwest you are, but I can assure you that wonderful strawberries grow wild in the woods here in Northern Minnesota, and some people cultivate those same berries. I don't know if they're the same as the Alpine berries (my attempt to grow that cultivar failed) but they look much the same. Alpine or no, I can tell you that good strawberries grow up here for a short time. We're almost as far north as you can be in the Midwest while remaining a Yank...so if you're from southern Minnesota, even, or farther south, yes - you should have the climate to grow good strawberries. Talk to your extension agent about the proper soil, sun, planting, etc.

Hmm. The cultivar is important. When I go home to central California (inland from chardgirl) and get strawberries from the stand, they're usually a bit smaller than the grocery store strawberry-flavored styrofoam things, which are (I suspect) grown on some equivalent of strawberry steroids. (No, I don't know if there's such a thing, but the idea of berries pumped up like Conan the Barbarian appeals to me.) The locally grown strawberries, when they finally hit their season, are smaller than the farmstand berries of California and considerably smaller than the supermarket variety, but they still never could be mistaken for wild strawberries.

Nancy.

Thanks for your reply.

1. Yes, I am farther south than you. I know that strawberries can grow here, as I remember picking them in my back yard as a child growing up (my parents grew them). But, I have not attempted to do so since a disastrous run at them about 15 years ago...

2. Re: picking wild wooded strawberries. When/what time of year is optimal for wild berry hunting? Are their any stray, potentially poisonous, or harmful doppelgangers to be weary of?

3. Re: Steroid strawberries. I have seen longstems the size of adult fists. :blink: Scary...

u.e.

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I bought several types of strawberries from Raintree Nurseries in Washington state. Profumata was one, I think. Anyway, they are very flavorful and good producers, though quite a bit smaller than supermarket berries. Buy some netting too; otherwise, the birds and squirrels will eat them all! Guess they know a good thing when they see it!

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I bought several types of strawberries from Raintree Nurseries in Washington state.  Profumata was one, I think.  Anyway, they are very flavorful and good producers, though quite a bit smaller than supermarket berries.  Buy some netting too; otherwise, the birds and squirrels will eat them all!  Guess they know a good thing when they see it!

John.

Excellent link. Thanks!

I found on Raintree the exact berry cultivar that I had in Luxembourg!! It's listed simply as "Wild Strawberry." Unfortunately, the hardiness zone is just one off from mine - Boo!! :sad:

u.e.

[edited to add: The name of the cultivar is fragaria chiloensis]

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

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Oh My Holy Strawberries! The strawberries in the Redlands of Miami and the Old West of Davie haunt my dreams! In Florida we would grow dozens of plants of tiny wild berries in our garden. A dear neighhbor gave us seeds once, from his stash, and after that we used our own. My daughter fondly remembers the farms in the Redlands, where the farmers will pinch your cheeks, if you're a curly haired moppet with a berry stained countenance, and a fit of the giggles. New Jersey berries are good in late spring, too, but they're a lot bigger and 'fluffier' in texture than the heavy little berries we would get in Florida. I thought it was the water! :rolleyes: hahaha, it's just the variety, I suppose.

edited by me because missing commas drive me nuttier than I already am!

Edited by Rebecca263 (log)

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I only buy strawberries when they are in season, and even then, only direct from the farmers and ORGANIC.

Berries are some of the most sprayed fruits/vegetables (in terms of pesticides) that you can ingest. So even when I stop at one of those roadside produce stands that look so quaint (I live in N. California), I always ask if their stuff is organic.

Read this report to learn more about pesticides and which foods have more/less on them.

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My granddad was a strawberry farmer in Louisiana.  He grew the most luscious and beautiful, not to mention delicious, berries you could ever hope to taste.  It's been a l  o  n  g  time, but I seem to recall him saying that the best berries are grown using pine needles as mulch.  I'm sure it's a lot more labor intensive to grow berries that way, but Man!  they sure are a lot prettier than that black plastic stuff!

God bless your grand-dad. I picked up 2 flats in Hammond this afternoon, got home an hour ago and 2 pints are already gone. At this rate there will not be any preserves, or not much!

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the modern strawberry and the red delicious apple is an almost perfect comparison. the exception is the reason they have become the way they are. the red delicious was bred strictly for eye appeal--there is no reason why a good-tasting apple can't ship. but that is not so for the strawberry.

strawberries are among the most fragile of fruits. they are extremely difficult to grow--they are susceptible to many more pests and diseases than most other fruits and vegetables (that's the reason they are sprayed, not because the farmer just feels like spending the money). and the very things we love about them--their melting texture and high sugar--means that it is very difficult to truck them across the country. but there is money to be made in doing that--and even more money to be made in doing that 11 months out of the year--and so that's what farmers do.

i get tired of getting up on this soap box, but we have to understand that farming is a business, not a lifestyle choice. farmers have bills to pay for land, seed, water, labor, etc. and they have the same desires as the rest of us: cars that run and kids they want to put through school. these are not extravagent wishes and it is getting harder and harder to do, as more and more people shop only on price (we have the cheapest food in the industrialized world yet a recent roper survey found that for more than half of americans, their biggest concern about food was the cost).

if you want great strawberries, stop buying them at teh supermarket and go to your local farmers market and buy what is grown locally, without needing to be shipped across country. that will, usually, mean that you'll only be able to have strawberries a couple of months a year. it will be inconvenient (supermarkets are not set up to be supplied by small local farmers). and it may well mean you'll have to pay more for them (small growers can't get teh same economies of scale that big ones can). but at least you'll have great flavor. if you're not willing to do that, then you have no reason to complain.

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i get tired of getting up on this soap box, but we have to understand that farming is a business, not a lifestyle choice. farmers have bills to pay for land, seed, water, labor, etc. and they have the same desires as the rest of us: cars that run and kids they want to put through school. these are not extravagent wishes and it is getting harder and harder to do, as more and more people shop only on price (we have the cheapest food in the industrialized world yet a recent roper survey found that for more than half of americans, their biggest concern about food was the cost).

Well said, Russ. Thanks for getting up on that soapbox again.

if you want great strawberries, stop buying them at teh supermarket and go to your local farmers market and buy what is grown locally, without needing to be shipped across country. that will, usually, mean that you'll only be able to have strawberries a couple of months a year. it will be inconvenient (supermarkets are not set up to be supplied by small local farmers). and it may well mean you'll have to pay more for them (small growers can't get teh same economies of scale that big ones can). but at least you'll have great flavor. if you're not willing to do that, then you have no reason to complain.

This is very well stated. I confess to a bit of hypocrisy on this issue, since a number of items I routinely buy (lemons, for instance) are never in season up here, and I certainly take advantage of produce shipping so I don't have to subsist on potatoes and fruit preserves all the long winter. I draw the line at subquality produce, however, to the extent that I know the difference. (I'm told by a friend in Africa that I've never had a truly ripe banana, so I won't claim to know the difference in every case.)

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I confess to a bit of hypocrisy on this issue, since a number of items I routinely buy (lemons, for instance) are never in season up here, and I certainly take advantage of produce shipping so I don't have to subsist on potatoes and fruit preserves all the long winter.  I draw the line at subquality produce, however, to the extent that I know the difference.  (I'm told by a friend in Africa that I've never had a truly ripe banana, so I won't claim to know the difference in every case.)

this isn't hypocrisy at all, but merely sensible behavior. i think most of us when we talk about "local and seasonal" are talking about it as a goal, not as a dogma. the only time it would be hypocrisy would be if you were constantly complaining about the bananas you get not tasting as good as the ones you remember from grandma's.

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I had some great strawberries in Australia, that were imported from Japan (or a japanese variety, I forget), very pale in colour, but very soft and aromatic. Pity I don't recall the variety.

I think that it is the texture of varieties like el santa which I don't like. Very crunchy, almost like and apple. When they are cooked they are quite aromatic (if too acid), so I wonder if a lot of the flavour and aromatic properties are in some what influenced by the texture.

The supermarkets here (Scotland) are selling a Spanish strawberry called 'Ventana', which is quite odd look as it is very dark and the majority still have the petals attached to the fruit.

Like Russ said, everything is in the hands of the consumer and at least in the UK, cheap food is much important the tasty or healthy food.

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The supermarkets here (Scotland) are selling a Spanish strawberry called 'Ventana', which is quite odd look as it is very dark and the majority still have the petals attached to the fruit.

just fyi: that's a university of california variety as well. they're everywhere.

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just fyi: that's a university of california variety as well. they're everywhere.

russ.

well noted - these suckers are the offenders that I cited in a post upthread as being over-sized styrofoam-tasting nightmares... :hmmm:

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

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just fyi: that's a university of california variety as well. they're everywhere.

russ.

well noted - these suckers are the offenders that I cited in a post upthread as being over-sized styrofoam-tasting nightmares... :hmmm:

u.e.

it sounded to me like you were talking about camarosas (another UC variety), which make ventanas look like fraise des boises. right after they were released I was making a recipe where you crush the strawberries with the back of a fork (then serve them in a lavender-scented meringue nest). only problem with the new berries? they bent the fork. that is no joke. growers have since found that you need to let them mature until they are almost black in color before harvesting. when they are a pretty red, they are still under ripe. not taht they're any great shakes when they're perfect.

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I grew up in (southern) California strawberry country and there's no doubt commercial strawberries have gone the way of the apple. UC Davis developed new hybrids of strawberries back in the 90s, IMO they bred ouot the flavor and bred in size and durability.

Each year my mom has the local grower pick a flat and overnights it to me here on the east coast. Alas, even the fresh picked overnighted berries lack the flavor of the berries of my youth. But they're still 100x better than anything you can get in the store. :smile:

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Oddly, many sites like this describe 'elsanta' as having excellent flavour. I find it very dull. I wonder if the decline in strawberry flavour has more to do with a change in production methods rather then the the variety. Scottish strawberries are quite good, but they only have to travel from Perthshire, compared to Spain for much of the supermarket crop.

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I love oranges, truly, madly, deeply. However, it is that time of year on the east coast of the United States when the snow predicted for this afternoon will fall upon the open blossoms of flowering trees throughout a fairly southern city. The plastic clam shells of strawberries on sale were just too much of a temptation, so I turned my back on the green bananas and picked up the best looking pint on display. I just couldn't wait until the local season had begun and wanted to move from oatmeal with raisins to Cheerios and fresh fruit.

The ones I bought are from a company I had not noticed at Whole Foods before & shipped from Florida.

Oh My Holy Strawberries! The strawberries in the Redlands of Miami and the Old West of Davie haunt my dreams! In Florida we would grow dozens of plants of tiny wild berries in our garden. A dear neighhbor gave us seeds once, from his stash, and after that we used our own. My daughter fondly remembers the farms in the Redlands, where the farmers will pinch your cheeks, if you're a curly haired moppet with a berry stained countenance, and a fit of the giggles. New Jersey berries are good in late spring, too, but they're a lot bigger and 'fluffier' in texture than the heavy little berries we would get in Florida.

Starting in the 1990's, strawberry growers from Watsonville began to dominate the market in many parts of the United States. Ultimately, Driscoll's seemed to have become the favored producer among shipped brands, and not just at Whole Foods. The pictures on the linked Web site do not resemble the large swollen berries with gaping white furry centers that are especially noticeable this early in the year. From the comments above, I wonder if the Driscoll family's efforts to produce the perfect berry run parallel to those of scientists at UC-Davis.

Placed side by side with the berries from Driscoll's, the berries from Florida were much smaller, a deeper red, and more aromatic. Most clam shells from Watsonville contained berries covered with large patches of white.

That said, some of the berries from Florida still have a slighly hollow core and greater symbolic value than taste. It is March.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

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driscoll's may once have been a family operation, a long long time ago. today it is more closely related to a grower's cooperative like sunkist. they do have a parallel strawberry breeding program--there is no one "driscoll berry", but rather a series of varieties depending on season and location.

watsonville is one growing area in california. it is further north, so typically it is harvested in the later part of the season. right now, california's harvest is centered in orange county/ventura county and some in riverside, iirc. note that typically the label on the clamshell reflects not the harvest site but the headquarters of the company doing the packing.

Edited by russ parsons (log)
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Last week I puchased a case of the most beautiful looking strawberries. They were the size of my four year old's hand! Perfect overall color and ripe. She typically can eat a half a pint in one sitting but after a few she did not want them. They were too "wet"(whatever that means). I tasted them and they did not have that strawberry flavor blast. So I took the remainder, cut them in half, threw in some sugar, bagged them and thre them in the freezer for summer daquiris. I live in the Chicago area and bought them at a reliable green grocer. I will have to wait for Michigan strawberry season!

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I had a botony professor who spent years employed by Smuckers, trying to breed a strawberry that tasted good AND shipped well. They were never successful.

When they aren't in season, I find a good brand of frozen strawberries (like Cascadian Farm) is a better choice than the supermarket berries. You obviously can't use frozen in all the same ways, but if you've got the craving, a bowl of thawed frozen berries is way better than the styrofoam kind.

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just to be the season nazi here, when strawberries aren't in season, i like citrus, or apples and pears, or cherries, or apricots, or melons. it's a big wide world out there and you usually don't start to really understand how wonderful many ingredients are until you learn to push yourself beyond those momentary cravings.

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I actually rarely buy any fruit that is out of season locally, which, this time of year, means I don't really buy fresh fruit (citrus would be an exception-I can't forego lemons and limes). Most of the stuff in the supermarkets, which this time of year comes from at least a thousand miles away, tastes like nothing to me. I'll take locally grown frozen fruit over storage apples, peaches that have been shipped from South America, etc etc, anyday.

Edited by kiliki (log)
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I'd say comparing strawberries to the average tomato would be more apt; I actually remember eating a good, sweet, juicy Red Delicious apple within the past year while it's been at least a decade since I bit into a succulent, drips-down-your-chin, stains-your-shirt-but-you-don't-care, strawberry. I keep getting suckered by the smell of the strawberries at our local Central Market but it always ends in tart, cottony disappointment with that first bite. Likewise with the Dallas Farmer's market, but that's related to a whole other topic.

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...or apricots.

Our markets do have strawberries that taste as good as they look, but the only good apricots I have eaten in this country lately have been dried.

(Thanks for the information about California's berry-growers, Russ.)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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