Wednesday, July 16, 2008

local strawberries... finally

I wouldn't say that my parents were early proponents of the local foods movement, but they did teach me a few things: local strawberries are the best kind of strawberries (supermarket strawberries are acceptable only in a very dire emergency) and supermarket sweet corn is not even worth considering but fresh-picked local sweet corn is food of the gods.

We had such a cold and wet spring that the harvest this year is 2-4 weeks behind schedule, so it's still way too early yet for sweet corn, but now finally (finally finally finally!) there are local strawberries. (There may have been some last week; I didn't get out to the farmer's market.)

I work at a grocery store, and when the slightly damaged produce gets culled off the sales floor, it become available for staff. Lately there have been a lot of California strawberries, which a lot of my coworkers are excited about because, hey, free strawberries. But I have been resisting, because I knew that local strawberry season was just around the corner.

And, oh, it was so worth the wait. I stupidly only bought one quart, and had to force myself to not eat the whole thing in one sitting as soon as I got home from the farmer's market. Now this means I have to stop by the Saturday market before work, and go back next Wednesday, too, and on and on until they run out, so that I can gorge myself on local strawberries to make up for the other eleven months of the year when I have to make do with supermarket strawberries, or no strawberries at all.

In the vegetable kingdom, color is indicative both of flavor (usually sweetness) and of nutritional content. This is why local strawberries, which are a deep, luscious, juicy red through and through, taste so much better than supermarket strawberries, which are usually a pale pink or even white or green in the middle. That also means that local strawberries have more vitamin C, lycopene, and other nutrients than supermarket berries. The only advantage of supermarket berries is that they travel well (they are picked underripe and then ripened/reddened artificially—yup, even organic berries). My local strawberries today got slightly banged up in the 15 block bike ride home from the farmer's market. But that's okay; they'll be gone by the end of the day.

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