Friday, May 21, 2010

The Seductive Strawberry

By many accounts, yesterday, May 20, was National Strawberry Picking Day. We are still a few weeks away from being able to pick strawberries in Connecticut, but before too long I’ll be planning a little road trip to pluck some of these beauties.

The strawberry has a truly seductive appearance – a fine shape and a gorgeous color when perfectly ripe. Strawberries are also rich in vitamin C and other compounds with antioxidant capacities. Consumption of strawberries has been shown to lower risk of cancer, age-related macular degeneration, and rheumatoid arthritis, among other ailments.

Since we’re on the subject of fresh strawberries, it seems a good time to share a valuable resource — the Environmental Working Group’s “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides.” Many of you probably shop for produce the way I do. I try to buy local, organic produce whenever it is available and affordable. But when the organic version can’t be found, or its price is out of sight, I have to make a choice. Do I buy the conventionally-grown product, or do I change my menu?

With the help of this handy pocket-sized guide it is a little easier to make these difficult choices. On the left side is a list of the “Dirty Dozen,” those 12 fruits and vegetables found to contain the most pesticides when conventionally-grown. Strawberries are Number 3. On the right are the “Clean 15,” those fruits and vegetables which contain the least pesticides when conventionally-grown. Buying organic is not as critical for the items in this column. The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit organization founded in 1993 whose mission is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. The guide can be downloaded for free at the group’s site.

In Connecticut there is a great website,, dedicated to helping potential shoppers locate places to purchase or pick seasonal produce and farm products. At the site you enter what you would like to pick or buy, your location, and the miles you are willing to travel. The results include the distance from your location and phone numbers. If you call ahead, you should be able to find out if the crop is pesticide-free. And if it is not, what pesticide has been applied and in what amount. The site will also help you locate caterers, restaurants, CSAs, retailers, and distilleries.

R & M Strawberry HullerPicking your own is a great activity to do with kids. You can’t beat the price. There is no fresher produce than what you pick on your own.  And there are plenty of easy ways to freeze what you can’t eat right away.

Just be sure to wear your hat and apply sunscreen. And if you don’t have one already, get your hands on a strawberry huller. Such a simple tool. Such a small investment. Processing your harvest will be so much easier.

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