Somewhere in the middle of June, during peak strawberry season, my co-worker and I were discussing food... something that we do nearly everyday since we're both passionate locavores and environmentalists. We were discussing the ever-tenuous subject of produce sold in chain grocery stores. It seems that, even at the height of Ontario's strawberry season, there are fewer and fewer Canadian berries on the shelves. Whenever I see "Grown in the USA" on the little sticker, I eye it suspiciously and wonder what that really means. Where did this piece of fruit come from? How far did it travel to get here? Were the people who picked it (assuming it was picked by a person) get paid/treated fairly? Were they trying to sell me a genetic science experiement? Why did it look so perfect and uniform? Even though they looked good, did they have any nutritional value? What kinds of chemicals were sprayed on it? What effects did these chemicals have on the environment around them? And what about our health? And why is it, when I pick up this produce, all these thoughts run through my head but none of the answers are ever available? No one knows; they just blindly throw the fruit in their cart, making choices based on aesthetics rather than sound judgement.
After this vehement discussion between my co-worker and I, on Sunday, June 21st, 2009 (just a few days later), right on the Toronto Star's front page, was a picture of a gigantic, perfect-looking strawberry. The article, From California to Ontario: Our love affair with the techno-berry," followed a container of strawberries from the field where they were grown in Watsonville, California, to the home where they were feasted on in Burlington, Ontario. This article is important because it answers all of the questions posed above, and it gives readers one more reason to choose the not-so-perfect looking Ontario strawberry during its season. Beauty is, afterall, only skin deep.
I'm not going to waste my time retyping the article. Instead, I've attached a link, in case you missed it. I knew there was a reason that I eyed those strawberries so suspiciously. This summer, for the first time, I vowed only to buy strawberries (and other berries) from local farmers so I can ask all those questions myself. Please make sure to see my follow-up on Marcy's berries, after I asked what exactly was sprayed on the beautiful raspberries I purchased last week. I should have asked before I bought them.
Link to the article in the Star:http://www.thestar.com/comment/columnists/article/654217
Check out this video of the strawberry's journey: http://www.thestar.com/videozone/653244