california's strawberry fields
los angeles, ca
a few years ago, i made a commitment to enjoy strawberries when they were only in season (may-july) mainly because during off-season, organic strawberries cost an arm and a leg and they also are just so disappointing in the flavor department. really, what is the point in buying something that is not only expensive, but also receives a D- in flavor?
i actually have strawberries sitting out right now and i can smell the perfume they’re emitting from a long distance away because they are truly the best this time of year, and this is when they should be enjoyed.
i’ve been extra sensitive and strict about strawberries after learning about how harmful they can be to not only consumers, but also farmers, the communities that surround strawberry farms, and the planet. i spent a summer interning at a non-profit dedicated to pesticide reform back when i was in college and focused on finding groups and donors to petition against a seriously harmful chemical called methyl iodide and methyl bromide. these pesticides were reported to be so highly carcinogenic that there were studies that reported developmental issues in children in strawberry farming communities as a result. this broke my heart </3 and it made me so angry that i made a new rule in my life which was: no more strawberries. especially from california where these pesticides were still in use.
it wasn’t until my first trip to provence when i relaxed this rule because the european environmental agency create the rules for safer strawberry cultivation. i also couldn’t help myself because there was a fruit stand posted on the side of a small road and the strawberries were calling my name. they were wayyy smaller than the gargantuan palm sized berries we have in the states but they went off like the most satisfying flavor bomb on my tastebuds. i’ll never forget how good strawberries can be, and as a result, i’ve admittedly become a strawberry cop/snob and i’m ok with that.
on the bright side, we can feel a bit more at ease when it comes to strawberries in the states because methyl iodide and methyl bromide has officially and finally been banned, but it doesn’t mean that i still don’t have a little twitch whenever my mom brings home a box of conventional strawberries from the korean market. strawberries still come first in time’s dirty dozen, a list of produce with the highest concentration of pesticides. kathy (aka mom) washes the strawberries and says that they’re safe, but while we wish we could magically wash away, we all know that’s not how it works.
when strawberries are in season, it’s a no brainer to choose organic even if it costs a smidge more. strawberries have a super thin skin that is eaten so when pesticides are sprayed onto the fruit, it can easily becomes absorbed and those pesticides simply can not be “washed off”. with usda certified organic fruit, you get a bit more peace of mind knowing that:
the land was free of chemical inputs for at least three years prior to certification
no synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and genetic engineering were used in the making
the farmers’ operations have an organic system plan and records in place
farmers are audited randomly and inspected on annually
with new babies (not of my own, but actually i really wish they were mine) in my life, i’m more protective in making sure that my sister chooses organic as the lowest bar for quality. and if she’s feeling ambitious, to source from local producers and even go out to sustainable farms and make a fun activity out of it. which is exactly what we did!
if you can’t tell from the pictures below, these strawberries were SO delicious that they tasted close to the ones i had in france. they were so sweet that hudson and taylor both couldn’t stop picking at them and smashing them into their tiny mouths. it was like candy to them. i encourage you to do the same during this strawberry season and get your fix in for the year. here’s a list of some pick your own and organic and sustainable strawberry producers on both coasts:
if you don’t live in california or ny, a quick google search on “organic pick your own strawberry farms” should hopefully return results close by to you * prayer hands emoji *.