Why Do We Love Them?

Photo by My Tiny Plot

Photo by My Tiny Plot

The simplest way to answer that question is to put one in your mouth, like the guy in the photo to the left just did. The answer is the red stuff running down his chin.

Maybe part of the reason we love them is that we can get that red stuff only for a few weeks every year.

It’s true that Modern Americans can buy things called strawberries whenever we want, but none of those objects will make your face look like that guy’s face. Only a strawberry can do that.

A strawberry is the same color on the inside as it is on the outside. The skin on the objects you can buy whenever you want may be that color, but beneath the skin those things are white, like the color of cucumber meat. That’s because they weren’t allowed to fulfill their destiny; instead, they were turned into commodities that we can buy whenever we want.

These are berries, not commodities.

These are berries, not commodities.

Eighty percent of the strawberries eaten in America are grown in California’s central valley, where an average strawberry field may produce ten times as many berries as the average field in Virginia or Maryland. But strawberries are fragile. If the berries in a California field are picked at their red best, they’ll be too soft to sell when they get to Wegman’s in Ashburn, so the California berries we buy around here left the field before the conversion of starch to sugar had softened their flesh and before the sun had finished catalyzing the production of the powerful antioxidant anthocyanins that make the berry red — before the berries become what they were meant to be, in other words.

Once strawberries reach the ripe stage, their window of viability is short: they can stay on the plant for about three days before they start spoil, and once they’re picked they have maybe two days before flavor and nutritional value start degrading rapidly. Unripe strawberries will hold their shape and texture a little longer, but they won’t continue to ripen: they belong to the non-climacteric class of fruits, which means they ripen only in the presence of the ethylene produced by the leaves of their mother plant.

That’s part of why it’s hard to say when we’ll start picking strawberries at Great Country Farms, or how long the strawberry season will last. One thing we can say, however, is that you’ll be picking strawberries here, not berry-shaped commodities.

And we can say they’ll make you feel like that guy looks, even if you don’t let the juice run down your chin.

If you want to monitor the progress of our berries, please sign up for U-pick alerts.

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