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Strawberries have no flavor anymore. Agree or disagree?

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For years I've been searching in vain for strawberries which taste like they used to. Has all the sweetness been bred out of them? Of course, they're more beautiful than ever, but they're just not sweet. I bought some organic ones at the local farmer's market yesterday. They looked nice and small, but they weren't really sweet. People who've never tasted sweet strawberries think they're great, but doesn't anyone else remember that strawberries can actually be sweet? Years ago when I lived in China, we had strawberries for about 2-3 weeks a year. They were ugly and half green, but the flavor was amazing. Same goes for strawberries in Europe years ago, but I think even there they've bred the sweetness out of them. Bring back sweet strawberries!

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  1. I get really good and sweet ones at my all-local farmer's market. Tasting them was a revelation -- I remembered what they were supposed to taste like. I think you just need to look for them. Also, it's a week or two early for great strawberries in much of the US.

    1. Driscolls, the huge fruit company, packages their tasteless strawberries in scented plastic. White interior means no taste at all to me. I get great strawberries in January-March in Florida. There is an organic farm inland from me that has great ones. Alva, Florida is the location.

      I can't remember getting good tasting strawberries for years in Michigan. I did grow my own Fraises de Bois and they were instensely sweet and delicious but the rabbits and birds did play merry hell with the plants.

      24 Replies
      1. re: LilMsFoodie

        The ones we've been getting up here from the Plant City, FL area have been exceptionally good this year. I try to avoid the Discolls ones. I can't remember the name of the company I usually buy.

        1. re: onrushpam

          Driscoll's (A California based company) is a world wide supplier of several types of berries...Strawberries being one...Independent growers on 5 different continents produce berries for Driscoll...including growers in the State of Florida...Why would you try to avoid the label???? Interesting....

            1. re: JonParker

              +1. and Driscoll's blackberries are just as bad - sour and loaded with huge seeds. totally inedible.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                Oh my it's not just me! I finally gave up on them and stopped wasting my money on those blackberries.

              2. re: JonParker

                You got that right! Luckily I have 2 grocery stores that carry "Limited Edition" brand of strawberries from California. They have been very good.

                I can get locally grown strawberries at my Farmer's Mkt. They have flavor.

                Driscolls aroma led me to buy them once. They may have smelled like strawberries but were flavorless. I won't buy anything with a Driscoll label

              3. re: Uncle Bob

                Their raspberries are very often the best ones I can find.

                Strawberries are all over the map, if you ask me. Some are good, some aren't so hot. They don't grow here very well, so I have to take what I can get. Obviously if everybody could grow those little Alpine ones, nobody would buy store-bought, but sadly that's not the case. I usually find strawberries to be okay-to-good, but i'm probably not that picky.

                1. re: EWSflash

                  Strawberries are all over the map

                  Agree totally...Weather plays a major role...I bought some Florida strawberries last week...totally tasteless...they rotted before I could eat them all...The berries were full of water due to heavy rain in the growing area prior to harvest...I certainly don't write off all Florida strawberries as totally tasteless...Nor do I categorically write off any label because of a bad experience. Like you said...some are good...Some are not.

                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                    unfortunately, most of the Florida crops have suffered from the unusual weather this year. the citrus was awful.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      This was my 4th winter here in Tampa and the citrus was indeed awful. I'm a big fan of red grapefruit and didn't do more than take a few bites of it this last winter. So sour! I tried about 3 times through the season and got no joy.

                    2. re: Uncle Bob

                      I can absolutely write off a label because of multiple bad experiences. Driscoll's does their own hybridization and breeding, and distributes those cultivars to the farmers producing their berries. And those berries are bred for appearance, resistance to disease and shipping ability at the expense of flavor, much like commercial tomatoes.

                      If you buy your berries from smaller producers using traditional cultivars you're almost certain to get better flavor. Even under ideal weather conditions, a Driscoll strawberry is not going to come close in taste to a traditional one. It's just not something that it was bred to do.

                      1. re: Uncle Bob

                        +1 Uncle Bob,

                        We lived for years in SoCal, from Sandy Eggo to Oxnard and got used to having easy access to some pretty tasty berries about 4 months running. Sort of like watermelon here in Florida, which if weather is perfect, can be good from early April through late Sept.

                        So Dude was craving some berries, and we saw some nice looking Driscolls at Sams. They're decent. And cheap. Not great, like Oxnard in May, but they're sweet enough for eating and will make some decent strawberry sauce, because the berry flavor is quite strong.

                        Rainier cherries aren't sweet enough for me this year, but the less expensive dark sweet cherries are very good, so I'm eating them. And the watermelon.

                    3. re: Uncle Bob

                      Driscoll's berries are bred for shipping. That's why they keep so well and fresh farm strawberries don't hold up more than a few days. The latter are so well worth the time and effort. And, in my experience, cheaper when u-pick.

                      1. re: Uncle Bob

                        Driscoll's strawberries are typically awful. It doesn't matter how they source them, because the vast majority of what they sell is white pulp surrounded by 1mm of red color. I never buy them anymore.

                      2. re: onrushpam

                        I've been disappointed in Fla. strawberries of late. Too often they have no smell and little taste but they look good. I'm not too far from Plant City. Unfortunately we've had freezes the last two years and the growers have pumped a lot of water on the berries to keep them from freezing. Not great for the berries and not great for the homeowners that live around the farms as their land is developing sinkholes from the depletion of the aquifer. And for what, tasteless berries.

                      3. re: LilMsFoodie

                        LilmsFoodie,

                        I'm a fellow west coast Floridian. Please tell us the name of the organic farm in Alva, Florida which supplies the tasty strawberries. Thanks.

                        1. re: gfr1111

                          don't know the name, I get them from the tomato stand at the corner of Winkler and Gladiolus in south Fort Myers. They are far superior to any I've ever gotten from Plant City. When was the last time you had juice run down your chin from eating a strawberry?

                          As Driscoll dominates most markets to the exclusion of all others, I just buy in season in Florida (which is pretty long..from Christmas until April usually) and freeze a few pounds for cooking purposes.

                          I totally agree with Jon Parker on Driscoll. Bred to ship and make those fist sized chocolate covered abominations, but not much else.

                          1. re: LilMsFoodie

                            Wow- you have a great strawb season!

                        2. re: LilMsFoodie

                          LilMsFoodie, I have to disagree re: Michigan strawberries. We get them directly from farmers one way or another (Upick, guy by the side of the road, farmers market) and they are great.

                          But I will say the absolute best ones we've gotten in Michigan were "guy by the side of the road" on the west side, near Dowagiac.

                          1. re: LilMsFoodie

                            Oh my god, Driscoll's blackberries are horrible and they taste like blood to the point where I really do feel like throwing up. Occasionally I find a few sweet strawberries per package but that's the most I can expect from this company.

                            1. re: hihihiemilia

                              It's sad that Driscoll's is located in an area that produces some really good produce. It's like they're taking up vast amounts of acreage and resources only to waste it all on such subpar results.

                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                The only Driscoll's product I buy is their red raspberries at our local Publix. I've never had any complaint. However, the Dole raspberries from Kroger's are, more likely than not, prone to moldiness.

                          2. Just buy from local growers and you will find the good stuff.

                            The local berries start showing up in Oregon in June, well worth waiting for. Will be seeing some blueberries and rasberries first, some of the best available.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: duck833

                              +1. I buy all my berries locally, in season, from small farms. I buy a lot and freeze them myself. They're easy to freeze. The ones in the grocery store year-round I never even give a second glance.

                            2. Don't know where you are located. Here in Southern New England, there are no strawberries worth eating until about the first of July.

                              Off season fruit that travels a great distance may look pretty, but is lacking in taste.

                              1. I would have certainly agreed, until this year...my husband heard that the CA crop was both ridiculously abundant AND delicious, and--although suspicious of these giant honkers appearing in the stores--I tried some, and he was right!

                                Now, that said, the only ones that REALLY have true strawberry flavor, though, come straight from my (sadly too small) backyard strawberry patch. :-)

                                1. I agree completely, unless they are locally grown. The ones in the supermarkets now are a waste of money and besides, they go bad in a day.

                                  1. Key is to buy SMALL strawberries that look ugly.

                                    More often than not producers have been trying to find the holy grail of "beauty queen" strawberries -- so much the better for dipping in chocolate and charging a premium, but so much the worse on the palate.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      the american strawberry is delish. Grow that, gardeners! not the stupid crossed to make bigger ones...

                                    2. just went to a local pick your own farm in south Fl, picked 7lbs to make jam at 99c/lb but they really don't taste of much at all. I sampled ripe, very ripe, large and small and they are all the same - tasteless. Fortunately they are going to be jam. Disappointing.

                                      Fresh with some confectioners sugar helps a little to brighten the taste or some sweetened heavy cream.

                                      1. I live in North Carolina and these strawberries are local, pesticide-free and in season. While they are way better than the white-centered Driscoll's, they're still not nearly as good as they used to be. I really think people have forgotten what strawberries are supposed to taste like. They're supposed to actually be sweet. No sugar needed. My experience has been much like smartie's.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: suse

                                          I'm in NC too and I pick strawberries at a local farm and they are deliciously sweet and juicy. after reading this thread, I think I need to make a run over to the farm!

                                          The grocery store strawberries are pretty, but usually taste like soap. Blech.

                                          1. re: suse

                                            I agree that berries (and much produce in general) are bred for appearance and shelf longevity, rather than flavor. Not to mention being picked green. Same story with stone fruit.

                                            To expand, my understanding is that black-seeded strawberry varietals are the best-tasting, but are rarely grown due to a consumer perception that they are spoiled.

                                          2. Well, of course if you get them in season they will be best, aside from growing them yourself. I do have a little trick though.... try rinsing them in hot tap water. It mimics the sun and will boost their sweetness!

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: joyjunkie

                                              it is season in So Fl but the ones I picked today were still very boring.

                                              I made jam this afternoon and it is disappointing because it just tastes of sugar - there is no perfume or fragrance from the fruit.

                                              1. re: joyjunkie

                                                Or better yet, leave them out in the sun for a little while if it's a sunny day.

                                              2. I think the answer is on two fronts.

                                                First, don't buy strawberries when they're out of season wherever you are. If you do, you'll be eating stuff that will have travelled great distances, probably picked well before it was properly ripe and, almost certainly, it'll be a variety grown more for travelling well and long life than taste.

                                                And for second, see first. Most supermarkets sell a very very limited range of varieties, even when homegrown. Where I am, it's rare to find something that isnt Elsanta which is probably the most boring berry you'll ever want to find - but it keeps well on the shelf and looks nice and red. Perfect if you're a supermarket; not perfect if you're a customer.

                                                Farmers markets, farm shops and pick-your-own farms can be a good source but not necessarily. At the market or shop, ask to taste one.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Harters

                                                  I agree. I buy mine at the farmer's market in season, and I usually ask to taste before i buy. generally you have a three to four week window of really good strawberries before they are gone for the year. If that short season isn't acceptable to you, then you're going to have to get used to flavorless berries.

                                                2. I know what you mean! I go to the farmers market and when I ask how the strawberries taste, I'm told, "they're super sweet!" I don't want super sweet. I can mix water and sugar in a glass. I want a strawberry flavored strawberry. The kind I remember from my childhood. Sweet is just that, I want a sweet and flavorful strawberry.

                                                  The closest I have come are the small Seascape strawberries out of the west coast. I was told they are becoming increasingly rare due to their short shelf life. It's unfortunate, people complain because their strawberries don't last an entire week in the fridge.

                                                  It's a trade off - if you want a ripe, juicy, richly flavored strawberry, it will likely not last for more than a few days. The genetically modified, watery, size of your fist, flavorless, things at the big box stores (and increasingly at the farmers market) will last for weeks...but I don't want them.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Tidbits

                                                    jesus! just because they crossed them with a non-American berry... they are not GMO to be bigger!

                                                    Grow a real american strawberry! They're AWESOMELY good.

                                                  2. Suse,

                                                    i agree that strawberries have no flavor anymore. My mother used to rave about the wild ones that she picked as a child and teenager in Northern Michigan. Hybridization to create a strawberry that will travel and last has killed the true strawberry for most of us. They're still out there, here and there, but we must search for them. Thati's why LilMsFoodie's remark about a place in Alva, Florida (upthread) intrigued me so much.

                                                    1. I disagree. It might be where you get them. I live in Southern California and they taste awesome here. But, I don't eat them so much that I take them for granted.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: hotteacher1976

                                                        I've been totally spoiled for life by having Chino Farms strawberries in Rancho Santa Fe, CA. That said, local grown strawberries are about 70% of the experience.

                                                        1. re: johnlockedema

                                                          Ooooh...those Chino Farm strawberries haunt my dreams. I miss the farm, the Chino family and the strawberries so much since leaving SD. I made strawberry shortcake for 50 people (a wedding rehearsal dinner) using Chino berries. May have been the most expensive dessert I've ever made, but 3 years later people are still raving that it was the best course of any meal during the whole wedding weekend. Honestly, it was just about have berries that taste like strawberries.

                                                          1. re: johnlockedema

                                                            Back in the 80's, there was a nice-sized strawberry stand in San Pasqual, just off 1-15 on the road to the WAP. Can't recall the family name, but all their berries were sorted and labeled by the field they came from. The family had fields all over north county. My faves were one of the earliest harvests, from "Uncle's" field in Enicinatas. It was almost 20 minutes from our home in Rancho Bernardo, but so worth the drive.

                                                            Oxnard berries in May are normally almost as good. Almost. ;-)

                                                        2. I live in the Houston area, and every year we go to King's Orchard to pick our own strawberries. They have been in business for over 20 years, and they said this was the best strawberry crop they have ever had. Four of us picked 36 pounds in about an hour. And they were amazing! Juicy and sweet. The trick with strawberries is to not pick them until they are perfectly red and ripe. Unfortunately the ones in the stored have been picked too green so that they transport better.

                                                          1. the mass-distributed ones by large companies like Driscoll's are worthless - completely devoid of flavor, and often water-logged or spongy.

                                                            go with smaller, local farms if you're fortunate enough to have access - we're blessed here in San Diego to have several - but even then it can be a crap shoot. i was hugely disappointed with the first offerings from a farm just north of here a few weeks ago, but the pint of organic strawberries i picked up yesterday from another local source was really wonderful - like the sweet, flavorful berries i remember from childhood.

                                                            1. I am not sure it's just strawberries. I have yet to have a good peach bought from a supermarket - they are dry and floury with zero flavor. The last time I had good peaches were from a roadside stand in N Ga about 7 years ago.
                                                              How about tomatoes - they too are very tasteless from the supermarket.
                                                              I think it's all about packing and shipping for the end destination and less about flavor and textures.
                                                              I try hard to buy produce from farmer markets and roadside stands as much as I can for reasons of price, support to local farmers, better quality, taste and so on.

                                                              1. I wouldn't know, I buy supermarket strawberries and the berries taste pretty good. I've been to local farmers markets, and its a shame that the prices tend to be so much higher than at a supermarket. I mean seriously the big companies can pay to ship the strawberries half way around the world and still beat the local farmer's price.

                                                                Babyducks " Key is to buy SMALL strawberries that look ugly.

                                                                More often than not producers have been trying to find the holy grail of "beauty queen" strawberries -- so much the better for dipping in chocolate and charging a premium, but so much the worse on the palate.
                                                                "
                                                                I agree Babyducks, I believe American food is sold on the idea of image rather than taste or nutrition.

                                                                1. For the definitive story on strawberries or fruit in general, one would be wise to seek out the advice of David Karp, aka The Fruit Detective. Here's a few timely articles of his that recently appeared in the LA Times "Food" section. We in LA are so lucky to have such a trusted and knowledgeable expert:

                                                                  http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                                                                  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/daily...

                                                                  http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                                                                  14 Replies
                                                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                    Wow, those are amazing links. Anyone reading this thread and interested in the flavor factor should read them.

                                                                    I love produce and try to keep on top of info about it, but I learned tons of things in those links that I never ken.

                                                                    Thanks.

                                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                                      Please thank David Karp. He is a serious authority on the produce world, but his specialty is fruit. Keep an eye peeled for his articles through the LA Times. He has been a contributing editor for some of the best food rags around. I was fortunate enough to rub elbows with him on occasion when he lived in Venice, CA - a very humble guy with an unabated enthusiasm for fruit.

                                                                      Through your posts, it appears that you're currently in C.A. which has some amazing fruit as well. I'm sure David would be eager to have some eyes and ears on the ground around them parts... :)

                                                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                        Will be living in Guatemala for the next few months which has some AMAZING tropical fruit. Imagine bananas picked ripe and eaten that day ... not weeks before and shipped green. Ditto on papaya, etc.

                                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                                          I remember those fruit scenarios from the South Pacific. And it's not just the fact that the fruit is so fresh and ripe - it's the amazing atmosphere that surrounds one while enjoying the fruit! I think locals are pretty matter-of-fact about it, but for a foreigner, it's the stuff that dreams are made of.

                                                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                            Unfortunately this ain't no South Pacific.

                                                                            I'm still waiting for something minimally scenic. This ain't thte tourist section of Guatemala. It is the sticks. Too often the houses look like this
                                                                            http://www.ahherald.com/images/news/2...

                                                                            As good as it gets is this
                                                                            http://www.prensalibre.com/bbtcontent...
                                                                            http://www.adoptionblogs.com/media/Gu...

                                                                            If you get off a paved street ... which isn't a stretch ... you run into that first link.

                                                                            I sort of romanticize people cooking over open fires, but the thing is these folks can't afford electricity. It causes health problems and polutes the air
                                                                            http://www.stovesonline.co.uk/justa-s...

                                                                            This is the main drag in downtown Escuintla and as pretty as it gets ... there is a spectacular shave ice (granazida) place across the street from that hotel
                                                                            http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3571/3...

                                                                            These are the sugar cane fields of Pepsi, the fruit groves of Dole. While providing much needed jobs, they build ugly factories

                                                                            Pretty volcano ... the tourist pictures don't show the roadside garbage dumps on the way
                                                                            http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2015/2...
                                                                            http://farm1.static.flickr.com/121/28...

                                                                            I've been as far as Guatemala City and that ain't no beauty queen winner either ... and nothing on the two hour drive thre was spectacularily beautiful.
                                                                            http://research.unc.edu/endeavors/win...

                                                                            Don't misread me though. I find this infinately more interesting than flocking with the tourists. I'm really digging it.

                                                                            But it definately ain't about the atmospere. It is about the fruit.

                                                                            1. re: rworange

                                                                              Thanks so much for linking the photos. To be honest, A fair amount of the South Pacific is very similar if you go to the more "authentic" parts of the islands. No electricity, sanitation is questionable, homes are pretty much planks, corrugated metal, and palm wood. I guess the beaches are plentiful - that makes a difference, but I really love hanging out with the people. I think each side views the other as the greener side of the fence. They want electricity and I want serenity. The Banana Republic economies still live down there - it's sad - but until the local govts have the ability to get a better grasp on their countries, the Pepsis and Doles just seem to be the lesser of evils for now. I know life is tough in Guatemala. I was in Belize back in the 80s - life was no piece of cake for most there, but when I crossed over the boarder into Guatemala, it was a real awakening for me as to how a simple line drawn up by political forces could make such a huge difference in peoples' standards of living. I sense that you are down there doing something very productive. I hope all goes well. And if you dive, make it over to the cayes off Belize. Safe journeys to you my friend.

                                                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                Nah, just dealing with green cards with my husband and his kids. I've started to guppify (Guatmalan upwardly mobile) in terms of food. I found some locally made artisan cheese with chiplin ... that sort of thing. They are taking to it like foodies to the Food Network... which I know they can't even imagine something like 24 hours of food television.

                                                                                Anyway, I'll bet these are the first fresh strawberries they will try. I hope they are good. They do like strawberry ice cream.

                                                                                1. re: rworange

                                                                                  LOLing! "Guppify" - I think you ought to submit that one to Miriam Webster for consideration in their Spanglish Dictionary. :)

                                                                            2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                              I forgot ... there is one modern mall in town complete with a Gap, Radio Shack, McDonalds, Subway, etc ... and I checked out the strawberries again at the supermarket there. They are tiny, but didn't look bad. I have no clue where they were from as the package wasn't marked. I wasn't going right home, but I'm considering picking them up tommorrow. Will report back on how they taste.

                                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                                I wonder if they're growing the strawbs locally - the highlands can get very cool at night. I stayed along the Guatemala-Belize border for a few days and was surprised at how much the weather did cool off up there.

                                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                  Well, this site says Guatemala is a large exporter of strawberries.
                                                                                  http://www.coeduc.org/guatemala/profi...

                                                                                  So if you are getting tasteless strawberries .... could be Guatemala.

                                                                                  The good news ... half a pound of strawberries is 50 cents. The bad news is they are sour and tasteless.

                                                                                  The bad news, AFTER I had the frankenberry, I decided to Google and see what's up with Guatemalan berries ... hepatitis from polluted irrigation water keeps popping up. I think I'll stick with pineapples.

                                                                                  These were your hermetically sealed supermarket berries, so I'm guessing I'm safe and it won't be death by strawberry. Anyway, according to this site I'm probably dead ... and all this heat ... I should have led a more virtuous life.
                                                                                  http://iguide.travel/Antigua_Guatemal...

                                                                                  I posted all those scary house photos. On the other end this is what $700 will get you in the big citird in Central America ... sissy wusses
                                                                                  http://directorio.webconomic.com/dir1...

                                                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                                                    Oh no! I thought the skeeters were bad enough in C.A., but the last thing one needs is Hep. Well, as I mentioned earlier, safe journeys to you. Strawberries in SoCal, even at their worst, usually won't kill you - just make you long for Spring time...

                                                                      2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                        I remember the part about the same strawberry plant producing different quality fruit throughout the growing season to be quite interesting. Growing up in Orange County, my mom always bought local strawberries in late winter/early spring, but I've since had some of the best strawberries from a local farm stand in Irvine during the heat of July. It really is hit or miss, even with the local strawberries.

                                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                          Late in seeing this post but wow, thanks, Bulavinaka, those links are really great. I'm going to try and read all his archives. How I wish I could try some of the strawberries he talks about!

                                                                        2. Strawberry farmer from Oxnard, CA told me this spring the strawberries they had were picked earlier because of the heavy rains.

                                                                          20 Replies
                                                                          1. re: monku

                                                                            The strawbs we picked up at the local FMs last weekend were really spot-on - deep intense flavors and sweet like candy. This week, they were still very good, but not as good as last weekend. I'd give the plants another week or two to rejuvenate, particularly with this great weather, and we'll be back on track.

                                                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                              I thought I was the only person on earth who says "strawbs" (and bluebs)!

                                                                              Guess I'll check at the farmer's market this weekend. Maybe still a bit early for Kansas City. I'll never forget the ones I bought at a roadside stand in Oklahoma one year. Heaven!

                                                                              1. re: Parrotgal

                                                                                My guess would be STRAWBS :) in the midwest might be hitting high gear a little later still? IMHO, these little gems start to hit perfection when the days are warmer and the evenings, while still cool, are warmer as well - 50s to 60s. But I don't know anything about the types of STRAWBS :) that are being grown out your way or what the mean temps have been. Whatever the case, good luck and good eating!

                                                                            2. re: monku

                                                                              I live in Southern California & every weekend I go to the Torrance farmers market & taste everyone's berry samples---no flavor at all. I have been commenting to everyont that the strawberries have no flavor this year. And yes this includes organic locally grown fruit. I'm so bummed. I keep hoping it will get better.

                                                                              1. re: sparkareno

                                                                                Seriously? Torrance FM has Harry's Berries. I haven't had Harry's strawbs since last year, but his by far are the best on any given day - but they do not offer samples. If his are flavorless then either it is an off year or no strawbs are doing it for you right now. I had some great strawbs a couple of weekends ago from the local FM, but this past weekend's weren't nearly as good.

                                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                  Yeah, Harry's was not as stellar for about a week or so, but they were good just this past Saturday. I share bulavinaka's surprise that you haven't found them to good at all this year. Did you talk to the staff @Harry's Berries? Did they have any comments or input? I told them the one week that their stuff was not that hot. I asked if it was because the prior week hadn't been too warm and they said that it was because of the rain. Berries soaked up all the extra water and that diluted the taste.

                                                                                  1. re: sweetTooth

                                                                                    East coast berries suffered badly last year because of a very rainy spring. I'm not sure it's "diluting the taste," but it does affect flavor. There are a lot of variables that affect berry flavor -- variety, climate, soil, growing method. That's one reason I've become such a fan of buying my produce from local farmers -- when it's good, it's fantastic, and when it's not, it's still usually better than the agribusiness product, which is hardier but suffers in taste.

                                                                                    For most of the country, it's a matter of going with what's in season. I eat strawberries for maybe a month to six weeks out of the year, but they're great strawberries. Ditto tomatoes, although the season lasts a bit longer. Whatever is disappearing is being replaced by something else delicious.

                                                                                    1. re: sweetTooth

                                                                                      No I didn't talk to anyone---just tasted everyone's samples. Harry's doesn't offer samples & they are expensive so I usually don't blindly buy them. Just not getting the strawberry love this year--maybe they will be better in another month or so of this hot weather.

                                                                                      1. re: sparkareno

                                                                                        I know it may seem to be a gamble to buy something that has a premium attached to it that others offer samples on, but Harry's are consistently the best strawberries I've tried, hands-down. They pick their strawbs (Gaviota and Seascape) at the highest point of ripeness. There are other considerations as well, but this one factor stands out in my mind. To me, if I want surefire excellent strawbs that are ready to go, I pay that premium at Harry's, that is when I also have the time to hit specific FMs.

                                                                                        You might visit their website - they have great tips on storing strawbs - if you buy Harry's, they'll start to fall fast. They're super ripe and will last only a day or two if you leave them out - talking from experience. (><)

                                                                                        http://www.harrysberries.com/Index.html

                                                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                          Interesting, because I hate Seascapes. I've bought them from vendors that everyone raves about, and to me they taste like dirt.

                                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                            Hmmm - can't explain that one (Something to do with supertaster? Or maybe related to that issue that both you and I have on the canola oil?). The Seascapes are higher acid and slightly more flavorful (maybe because of the higher acid). I personally prefer the Gaviotas because I lean toward sweetness in fruits - really good eating straight up.

                                                                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                              Nope. I'm not a supertaster or have canoloa oil issues and I am not a fan of seascapes which don't have much strawberry flavor to me.

                                                                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                I normally love high-acid fruit, so I don't think it's that.

                                                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                  Okay I'm stumped. BTW, just ordered a "Seascape" lemonade at our local Mendocino Farms sandwich shop, and it was really refreshing. I picked up on the strawberry flavor, but no dirt taste to me. Looks like my theory that we're long lost siblings is going out the window. ;)

                                                                                            2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                              OK, this past saturday at the Torrance market Harry's Berries had samples out!! They were good but 3 times the price of other berries--small box was $5. Too expensive for me--I found some other berries that were $5 for a 3 pack--that weren't quite as good & then I just put sugar on them or balsamic. oh well

                                                                                              1. re: sparkareno

                                                                                                Wow - Harry's offering samples - I guess the economy (or lack of it) has finally hit everyone... Glad you were able to at least try them.

                                                                                                I'm not sure what type of strawbs those 3/$5 were, but I'd have to guess Camarosa. They can be very sweet right now - not as fragrant as others - but I find their texture to be a little too firm for my likes. Another nice doctoring ingredient is Grand Marnier. Give that a whirl if you can and see what you think. :)

                                                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                  GM on strawberries? That sounds like pure genius.

                                                                                                  1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                                    I guess I've watched too many cooking shows over the years on PBS.

                                                                                            3. re: sparkareno

                                                                                              Hmmm.. Harry's does offer samples at the Saturday Santa Monica FM on Arizona.
                                                                                              Over the years, I've found that I avoid bruised and mushy berries if I take my own tupper ware to bring them back in. Otherwise those green plastic mesh baskets leave deep gouges once you place one in a shopping bag. Also, once I get home, I put the berries in a larger box and separate layers with paper towels to absorb moisture. I am able to keep them free from spoilage this way for a week by which time I finish them to make room for the next batch. I've heard about the glass jar method and use it for my herbs, but don't have an appropriate jar for my weekly berry haul.

                                                                                              1. re: sweetTooth

                                                                                                I find that the paper towel method absorbs too much moisture and the berries start getting spongy on the outside. A wide-mouthed glass jar really is the best. When I find a good one, I hold on to it!

                                                                                    2. I'm from Ventura, Ca, which is at the center of some of the best strawberry growing country in the world. I also write a farmers market column & go to all the farmers markets in Ventura County, so I regularly get to taste all of the wonderful varieties of strawberries we grow around here. The taste of the strawberry comes from a variety of factors. For example, we had a wet rainy winter, so the winter berries, which are generally less flavorful than the summer berries, developed what is called "white shoulder," where the tops by the stems are white. They still sell these berries, but any grower will tell you they're not very good.
                                                                                      Sadly though, the best, most flavorful berry varieties are too fragile to stand shipping. Most of the time you have to eat the fresh berries the day you buy them. You can actually watch them rot on the kitchen counter over an 8-hour period in the summer. Sweetness also varies by variety, and most of the farmers will let you taste the berry to see if it's the kind you prefer.
                                                                                      But for the rest of the country, you guys tend to get the giant, durable varieties that ship well, and you're right, they aren't as good. I'm by no means a strawberry expert, but I'm told that they are trying to create big, flavorful berries. I'd suggest checking out your local farmers when they're in season and using the grocery store varieties for jams.

                                                                                      32 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Fuser

                                                                                        I cannot re-emphasize enough the fact that strawberries are varietal. We know that different apples taste different, but for some reason people think strawberries should all taste the same. In addition to flavor, some of them are white in the center and some are red all the way through. It has nothing to do with whether the strawberries are ripe, it has to do with what variety they are, just as some apples are still green when they're ripe.

                                                                                        There are half a dozen or so major commercial varieties grown in California, and another half dozen or so lesser grown varieties, plus countless other varieties, many of them proprietary to the dreaded Driscoll, that are grown in smaller quantities.

                                                                                        Many growers grow more than one variety, since they bear at different times of year, so even berries from the same grower may taste different from week to week or even basket to basket. The farmers market vendors I know rarely label their strawberries, even when they have several different varieties on the table. You may sample a berry and then chose a basket that "looks good" to buy, and it might be a different variety from the one you sampled. Strawberry growers really need to get hip to marketing their strawberry by variety!

                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                          Aaaaaamen!

                                                                                          I'm in Ontario, local berries won't be around for a month yet. I'll wait. I always remember going to a local pick your own and the farmer saying "The GOOD berries are in THIS field. The BIG berries are in THAT field." A lot of people still went for the big ones; I felt like shaking them.

                                                                                          1. re: Ferdzy

                                                                                            I have never once in any part of the US had a single strawberry to compare to the ones grown in SW Ontario. Even the ones at the farmers' markets here (NY Greenmarkets) are not terrific.

                                                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                                                              But sad to say, Buttertart, many farmers are no longer growing the good old varieties. They're growing the nasty shit. I can't believe people don't notice the difference, but apparently not enough.

                                                                                              I'm doing my bit to save the Ontario strawberry by screaming loudly and long everytime someone tries to sell me something firm, pink and strawberry-shaped instead of actual good strawberries. Hope other people will too.

                                                                                              1. re: Ferdzy

                                                                                                Oh no, that's terrible - those are treasured memories - my husband doesn't like strawberries and I've always told him it's because he didn't grow up with the ones we had (his mom doesn't cook seasonally, if it's in the market and she feels like it, she'll buy it). I can still smell their perfume, even after they were frozen by my mom for the winter. The only ones worthy of comparison are the wild ones I've very occasionally had.

                                                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                  The wild ones are definitely the bomb. One of my treasured memories was once my dad had a picnic for some of his friends in the Don Valley ravine, and we picked SO MANY wild strawberries we had enough for me to make my grandma's recipe for Cape Breton scones and serve them as shortcake.

                                                                                                  Oh wow.

                                                                                                  1. re: Ferdzy

                                                                                                    Holy cow, you gave me the chills when I read that. Truly heaven. One of the best desserts of my life was a wild strawberry sorbet/meringue/fresh wild strawberries confection I had in Paris a few years ago. Same trip, eating wild strawberries from the market after midnight in the kitchen. Wonderful.

                                                                                                2. re: Ferdzy

                                                                                                  ...and please don't say it's the same way with tomatoes, please please.

                                                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                    No, if anything the situation is improved with tomatoes. You can get many more varieties (esp heirloom) than you used to, at least at farmers markets and as far as I can see the "regular" tomatoes are pretty much what they always were. Except for winter/spring green house tomatoes, which while not great are much, much better than they used to be.

                                                                                                    1. re: Ferdzy

                                                                                                      That's great. I recently had some greenhouse tomatoes that were from Leamington - pretty darn good for early April. Much better than the Dutch and Mexican jobs we usually get,

                                                                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                        Is Leamington still the Ketchup capital of the world? I got so tired of buying cardboard tomatoes this year. Even the vine tomatoes as red and juicy as they looked are horrible. I resorted to only buying cherry ones. I splurged the other day at the farmers market and bought hydroponic ones grown in a local greenhouse. Expensive, delicious and cheaper than diamonds! ;) Hamilton's claim to fame is mustard and even have a mustard fest. We must be related. lol

                                                                                                        1. re: 02putt

                                                                                                          We vacationed every year in Leamington growing up, don't ask me why, and I loved being up waiting for my parents to wake up and take us to breakfast, playing jacks in front of our motel room on the cement sidewalk, hearing the whistle bell blow for the start of the work day and the smell of tomatoes wafting over the town. Just smells like vacation in my mind.

                                                                                              2. re: Ferdzy

                                                                                                Oh, I'm hoping they are early this year in Montréal - I just lust for them and all the other berries. Never buy those big tasteless things out of season. The small ones are so much more similar to wild strawbs.

                                                                                                I'm pleasantly surprised that goodhealthgourmet finds excellent strawbs way down in San Diego - I tend to think of them as a fruit from cold climates - perhaps the Bergman film?

                                                                                                1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                  Strawberries in general (at least the varieties in SoCal) love the general coastal climate - very mild. Warm days, ocean breezes, cool nights. Right along the coast, the temps are usually around mid-60s to mid-70s during the spring to early summer, then drop down anywhere from the low-50s to low-60s at night. Summertime will bump up the daytime temps from the mid-70s to mid-80s on a normal day, and mid-60s to mid-70s at night.

                                                                                                2. re: Ferdzy

                                                                                                  I want to kiss the feet of the person that came up with day neutral strawberries! Now we can enjoy them in Southern Ontario May-September.

                                                                                                3. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                  I get the varietal thing. The problem is that most varieties these days - even those grown locally and organically - are just kind of pretty and blah. That's my point. Even the organic ones are cute. When was the last time you even saw an ugly strawberry - one of those half-green, deformed, non-strawberry-shaped ones?

                                                                                                  1. re: suse

                                                                                                    My experience is that they are now breeding the flavor back into strawberries. For years they bred strawberries for looks and durability -- it doesn't really matter from a grower's perspective if the strawberry tastes good if they can't get it to the consumer and the consumer won't buy it. Now that they've perfected that, they're breeding the flavor back in. At least in California, the newer varieties taste better (to me) than their most recent predecessors.

                                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                      Interesting. I suppose they'll eventually make their way to North Carolina farms.

                                                                                                      1. re: suse

                                                                                                        I was poking around and found some information on strawberries from Florida, and they seem to be growing completely different varieties than California, presumably due to the different (much more humid) climate. I would guess that the varieties of strawberries grown in North Carolina would be closer to Florida than California.

                                                                                                        I suggest that everyone who buys from local farmers or farmers markets start asking what varieties their strawberries are and become familiar with them.

                                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                          Well that makes a ton of sense. Thanks for explaining that. It's super humid here in NC, so you're probably right.

                                                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                            Googling strawbery varieties North Caroline, it turns out that the most common varieties are Sweet Charlie, Chandler and Camarosa
                                                                                                            http://ncsu.edu/enterprises/strawberr...

                                                                                                            It seems Chandlers are the variety most grown, so it surprises me that they are not sweet in North Carolina. In California they remain my favorite strawberry.

                                                                                                            I don't think much of Camarosa strawberries. I have never seen Sweet Charlie berries in California so can't say.

                                                                                                            A few other varieties
                                                                                                            http://www.nccrop.com/varieties.php/1...

                                                                                                            The future for NC strawberries, however, may be the Florida Festival variety.
                                                                                                            http://www.ncbiotech.org/news_and_eve...

                                                                                                            When you go to your farmers market, be sure to ask what variety they are selling.

                                                                                                            1. re: rworange

                                                                                                              Thanks. I'll do that. I did have some nice ones from our CSA this week. I should find out the variety.

                                                                                                        2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                          i'm with Ruth. That is, I think supermarket strawberries now are at least mediocre to palatable compared what prevailed 15+ years ago. Not delightful, but not as abysmal as they used to be. And quality does vary season to season, of course.

                                                                                                    2. re: Fuser

                                                                                                      "Sadly though, the best, most flavorful berry varieties are too fragile to stand shipping."

                                                                                                      You can extend that to virtually any fruit or vegetable. Corn for example - if I can't get it fresh picked that day, I'm not interested. Here in the Great White North with our limited growing season, we suffer through months of what I call "February tomatoes"; they're red and round, but they've been bred to stand the long trip up from the southern US, not to have any taste. I remember the garden my Mom kept, and the wonderful taste of a tomato right off the vine. Apples right off our tree, fresh picked raspberries, or u-pick blueberries in northern Ontario; the flavours were so vivid I remember them years later, and when I occasionally pick up the modern versions at the supermarket, I just sigh at one more thing we've lost.

                                                                                                      1. re: Fuser

                                                                                                        >>> Sadly though, the best, most flavorful berry varieties are too fragile to stand shipping. Most of the time you have to eat the fresh berries the day you buy them. You can actually watch them rot on the kitchen counter over an 8-hour period in the summer

                                                                                                        Nope.

                                                                                                        Keep them in glass jars in the fridge and even the most fragile will last. I even kept the most fragile fruit of all ... white raspberries ... which barely make it home from the farmers markit without turning to mush ... five days in glass jars.

                                                                                                        The less fragile berries will keep 2 - 3 weeks
                                                                                                        http://www.chow.com/blog/2006/08/more...
                                                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/301817
                                                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/284199

                                                                                                        I would never keep strawberries on a counter. Chilling them doesn't destroy the flavor.

                                                                                                        As to flavorless berries, this isn't perfect, but squeeze a little fresh lime on them. It brings out the flavor of tasteless fruit. If that doesn't do it a tiny sprinkle of sugar. If you have a flavorless tomato, again, squeese some lime on and sprinkle some salt.

                                                                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                                                                          Lid on the jar or no? I haven't heard of this and would like to try it.

                                                                                                            1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                              Make sure the berries are unwashed and dry, and put them in a jar with a tight lid. It works wonderfully.

                                                                                                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                +1. i just started doing this a few months ago, and i'm amazed at how well it works! i've become a crazy person about saving large glass jars...the only problem is that it's enabling my almond butter addiction because i've discovered that the 26-oz jars of Maranatha from Costco are perfect for berry storage ;)

                                                                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                I just got some excellent local strawberries from my co-op so I'll definitely try this--thanks for the tip!

                                                                                                              2. re: Fuser

                                                                                                                Fuser - we just moved to Ventura County, Simi Valley specifically, from San Benito County and are looking for a great farmers market or better yet a local farm to consumer location. Since you have been to a lot of teh farmers markets in Ventura County, what advice do you have for me?

                                                                                                                We are alos looking for a great fish mounger and butcher that beats Costco (if possible).

                                                                                                                Thanks!

                                                                                                                Dave

                                                                                                              3. The local farm we shop at in season north of Boston grows their own strawberries (early and late variety), raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, peaches (yellow), peaches (white), and apples. They must be choosing the right variety of each of these fruits because each is sweet and succulent. For us it's a wonderful experience eating In Season fruits and vegetables. There's always something tasty to look forward to. I wouldn't touch a supermarket strawberry for all the world. That's where they come from...all over the world.

                                                                                                                1. I am munching on a clam shell of "Certified Organic Natural Choice California Strawberries" for breakfast. I cannot remember EVER having strawberries this delicious. Incredibly sweet. VERY "strawberry tasting." But I don't expect the strawberries I buy next time, even if from the same grower, to be exactly like these. It's sort of like betting in the Derby. You picks your horse and you takes your chances. This time I'm a winner.

                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                    Ooooooh... Just finished watching Dr. Strangelove on Reelz, reliving my youth, with a box of super sweet organic strawberries to munch on. If I could ALWAYS get berries this good, who needs popcorn? Life is gooooood..!!!

                                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                      Cannot undo your Chinese puzzle, can you let me have a less complicated one please Caroline. ehdbx at yahoo dot co dot uk

                                                                                                                    2. Completely agree with the frustration. Strawberries from the market are def. hit or miss in NJ; cantaloupe even worse. At least I can smell the sweetness of a strawberry and the NJ farms beat every market in season but I have returned more lousy cantaloupes than I care to admit. Musk melon is now my preferred melon....nothing more disappointing than tasteless, musty cantaloupe.

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                        I'm with you on the cantaloupes. The crazy thing is that we can all remember having really great ones and every now and then a yummy one surfaces so we keep buying them and keep hoping. One of the blechiest ones I ever had was an organic one I bought at the local farmer's market. So disappointing. Organic does not always equal good.

                                                                                                                      2. my tasteless strawberries were put to good use tonight - in the blender with some sugar and tequila - delicious.

                                                                                                                        1. When I buy strawberries in the store they are always huge and tasteless. Near my home is a local farm where you can pick the berries yourself. Recently got a box from there and were amazed at how sweet they were. Not the prettiest but they were sugar sweet. Also a deep dark red compared to the ones from the supermarket.

                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                          1. re: swamp

                                                                                                                            With all other things equal, a strawberry left longer on the plant will be the best berry.

                                                                                                                          2. When I was young, I grew up on an island in Washington State that was one of the strawberry capitals of the world. The Marshall strawberry was reputed to be the finest, or at least one of the finest every strawberries. Deep dark red, all the way through, and with an incomparable taste. Marshalls are now one of the most endangered food plants in the world. They were hit by a virus that evidently has no cure and even if they weren't diseased, they are so fragile, they don't ship well. For a while, the only cultivars in the world were in a lab in Oregon. Here's a more recent article. http://www.pnwlocalnews.com/kitsap/bi...

                                                                                                                            California strawberry growers have bred the flavor out of berries in exchange for shipping quality and long life. While they are a bit better than they were a few years ago, they are nothing like I remember when I was a kid. Washington local berries are better than California berries that are shipped. I assume that some grower somewhere in California has a good variety, but he/she probably sells it locally. I wonder how many Americans have ever had a really good fresh strawberry.

                                                                                                                            10 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: PAO

                                                                                                                              There are excellent strawberries in Calfiornia, not just confined to the SF Bay Area. When I lived near San Diego, I remember the amazing strawberry stand with fresh berries in January ... they were not greenhouse ... just a little white shack surrounded by a small patch. It is warmer down that way.

                                                                                                                              Damn ... now I feel compelled to buy the crapola looking strawberries I saw at a supermarket here in Guatemala. I kind of sneered at them, but who knows ... maybe greatness there.

                                                                                                                              It has been a revelation eating tropical fruit such as bananas, mangos, papayas, pineapples, sapote and many unknown fruits that are picked ripe and not green and shipped thousands of miles. And watermelon ... some of the best I've ever had, sweet, crisp and perfect ... not a bad one yet

                                                                                                                              1. re: PAO

                                                                                                                                Thank you. I know all kinds of people on this post talk about the "excellent" ones they get locally. I'm the OP and was actually talking about local strawberries. I just think most people have never had a truly "excellent" one. Of course, these local ones are better than those supermarket monsters, but they're just not as good as they used to be.

                                                                                                                                1. re: suse

                                                                                                                                  That is certainly true of any I've gotten in the past few years from NYC Greenmarkets. Better than the waxen ones but not really up to snuff.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                    Not even the Tristar variety that Rick Bishop (Mountain Sweet) or Franca Tantillo (Berried Treasures) sell in Union Square? Tristars are a late ripening variety (June-Oct). Both Rick and Franca's berries are usually very popular (sold out by 10 or 11am). Mountain Sweet is at Union Square Wed/Sat and Berried Treasures is there Wed/Fri and on the UWS at the 77th St Market on Sundays, IIRC.

                                                                                                                                    http://www.seriouseats.com/2009/08/me...
                                                                                                                                    http://www.seriouseats.com/2009/08/se...

                                                                                                                                    Oh, and Franca had the tiny wild strawberries briefly last year, but they were very expensive and a bit sour. I think $10 for a 1/2 pint!
                                                                                                                                    http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...

                                                                                                                                    1. re: kathryn

                                                                                                                                      I'll have to keep an eye out. (We usually shop later, that is probably why we've never come across them.) Thanks for the tip!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: kathryn

                                                                                                                                        I like the Tristars, but I don't think they're all that. There's a bit of emperor's-new-clothes-ism going on there, I think. I've had Driscoll organic strawberries that were easily as good (and quite a bit cheaper). But the best strawberries I've ever had came from a fruit market in Paris in May. Whatever they're doing over there, someone ought to try it here.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: small h

                                                                                                                                          Tristars are important because they're day neutral and keep producing even when it's hot outside. They also have a long season.

                                                                                                                                          Places brag about their flavour? Really?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Shazam

                                                                                                                                            Yep. If you have too much time on your hands, search through to find "Tri-Star" modified by "tasty," "fragrant," "sweet," "beautiful," and "excellent," along with references to the vendors being mobbed by Tri-Star crazed customers.

                                                                                                                                            http://www.echonyc.com/~lwollin/green...

                                                                                                                                          2. re: small h

                                                                                                                                            I've had good and bad ones from Driscoll, whereas I find the farmer's market Tristars are more consistent. And the farmers will let you try them before hand and/or tell you if the weather's been bad. I've bought non-Tristars at the farmer's market and, eh, not been impressed.

                                                                                                                                            Of course, strawberries are VERY fickle as I learned from the link someone posted above:
                                                                                                                                            http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                                                                                                                                            I also bought some Driscoll's at my local grocery store and compared to the prices for Tristars: price per ounce, the Driscoll's were actually more expensive than the farmer's market berries.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: kathryn

                                                                                                                                              I think I lucked out with those Driscoll organics - they were on sale at Whole Foods for $3/quart or something crazy.

                                                                                                                                  2. Am fortunate enough to live in Bermuda and local strawberries are in full swing right now. They are sooooo much better than the Driscoll's tasteless foam that gets shipped here throughout the year. Am rather lucky that am it's already in season, have been craving them forever! Sweet and intense flavour. Have been dumping sliced berries into my Greek yogurt, what a great afternoon treat!

                                                                                                                                    1. If you're talking about those Driscoll monsters, their strawberries are one notch above waxed fruit. On the other hand, the strawberries growing wild on my 8 acres are unbelievable.

                                                                                                                                      1. Strawberries are a curious beast. Until about 15 years ago, it was virtually impossible to have them out of season. The problem with them is that they don't actually like a lot of heat, and shut down production when it's too warm. They're also light sensitive, which means that depending on the length of daylight, they will stop production :)

                                                                                                                                        There have been some advances made in recent years. Those horrible tasting strawberries that look really good and travel well were a commercial breakthrough; too bad about the taste and texture. There are now day-neutral varieties that produce continuously throughout the season, rather than in weird spurts.

                                                                                                                                        Strawberry plants are weak. They are very susceptible to a host of diseases, and no matter what you're almost guaranteed that after about three years they'll give up the ghost. Now most varieties will make daughter plants from what are called runners; this is how you can sustain a strawberry patch indefinitely.

                                                                                                                                        Your best bet is to grow your own. A serious strawberry lover will have around 1000 plants.

                                                                                                                                        1. Gariguette strawberries always have an early season in France, which is now !
                                                                                                                                          The batch we had last night was so sweet and so fragrant. You can smell it from a couple of rooms away.
                                                                                                                                          My love story with gariguette does not date from yesterday. A few years ago driving in southwestern France in June, I was absolutely blindsided by the smell of gariguette. The car screeched to a halt, and protected by two little girls, I climbed out to … steal strawberries.
                                                                                                                                          Later I confessed to my landlady and asked her if she knew the farmer I had stolen from, as I was ready to buy from him actually. She sweetly replied that it was her BIL and that I could go back to help myself as much as I wanted, because the seasonal harvesters had just come and gone, and what was left in the fields was proverbially up for grabs.
                                                                                                                                          Vive la France or what.

                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                          1. re: Parigi

                                                                                                                                            Wow, it would be quite an experience even just to be surrounded by the perfume of a whole field of gariguettes!

                                                                                                                                            Just this past weekend I felt honoured to have some just-ripened mara des bois from my MIL's tiny patch from her garden. She is also growing some gariguettes and charlottes, which I am eagerly waiting to ripen. All the bushes need to be meticulously covered with netting to protect them from the critters.

                                                                                                                                            Yes, vive la France, for appreciating and preserving the culture of good strawberries. In fact, whether in the supermarkets or the markets, you never see the fruit labelled as just "strawberries" (or fraises). They almost always label them by variety.

                                                                                                                                          2. Now I can actually distinguish between strawberries from Watsonville, Ca. and those grown in Florida ... the former are wonderfully sweet and flavorful, the latter are not especially sweet and lack the flavors that make this fruit unique ....

                                                                                                                                            15 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: gifted gourmet

                                                                                                                                              Where are you located? Both areas export to the rest of the US and to Canada, I haven't had any CA berries here (NY) that were terrific.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                You have your pizza, we have our strawberries. Neither were meant to travel across the continent. :)

                                                                                                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                  Very true. On the whole I'd rather have he strawberries!

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                    And I the pizza - strawbs are replicating around here. It's always greener on the other side, isn't it? :)

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                      Too true. You live in southern CA, right? Talk about produce, you're so lucky.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                        Yes, SoCal, as many of us call it. We are lucky to have access to some great produce. The first tip-off that I'm far from home is when I can't find a good fresh salad anywhere - and now I'm realizing that goes for strawbs as well.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                          LOL. I know what you mean about the salad -- and other produce as well. I have an irrational fear of developing scurvy when I travel to some other parts of the US.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                            >>I have an irrational fear of developing scurvy when I travel to some other parts of the US.<<

                                                                                                                                                            Me too! OMG - one whole week and not a baby green to be found! Arrrrrh ya' scurvy dog! ;)

                                                                                                                                                            We really are lucky in California...

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                              Sob...I remember the first day I stepped into the Produce Canter in Berkeley...in 1974! I even remember the smell...you CA people are just too lucky and spoiled.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                Living in SoCal, I am blessed with the fresh produce options. But we've been heading up to NorCal for the past couple of summers to achieve nirvana. Our neighbors to the north have a well-entrenched culture of respect and reverence for food. This is so apparent when we walk the Ferry Building, the local farmers markets that we've visited in Marin, and the little mom&pops sprinkled throughout the outlying counties from The Bay.

                                                                                                                                                                The old reference of a one-stop light town gets us excited in these parts because these little hamlets seem to always have family-run grocery stores that sell artisan products from the local area. The food and drink is amazing because these folks need to have a draw in order to survive. But they also require the ability and pride to create or setting aside the space to offer these goods. And of course, a great part of this requires to quality sources to start with.

                                                                                                                                                                When dropping by a larger nucleus like a town that is surrounded by agriculture or gifts from the sea, the density of Chow-worthy places is scary - how do I get a shot at so many places with so little time?

                                                                                                                                                                Places like Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station make this proposition a little easier. One would think that a working cheesemaking facility with an attached shop would be a pretty staid place to drop by. Approaching their double screen doors, one picks up on the funk of cheese - good cheese. Really good cheese. And what greets you as you enter is a really nice little produce department that is run by a sweet lady who knows all of the best growers. We're a sucker for her heirloom tomatoes because for every tomato she offers, there's a great cheese, wine or charcuterie item waiting to be matched up with it - all in this little unassuming shop that is dense with goods that are based in the local agriculture. I've never really taken the time to focus on the strawbs up here - the distractions are many when it comes to food. But I will have to make a point in doing so this summer. And don't get me started on Tomales Bay oysters... :)

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                  Yes, and the weather is as close to perfect as it gets in the US. Career was the only reason to move. Ever since have been attempting to live in a Berkeley of the imagination!

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                    It's amazing how one can be in three or four different areas around the Bay and experience as many different samplings of climate. The number of microclimates is amazing, and that again washes out in the selection of produce and food in general. The coastal region of Marin is the only place I've visited in California where the daytime temperature seems to be a constant 62 degrees all year long. This is the place to visit in the summer if one is trying to escape the dog days.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                    Yes, what we have in the Bay Area is a perfect incubator for food: chefs and restaurants that are always looking for newer and better products, a critical mass of people who are willing to pay premium prices for newer and better products, markets where newer, better products can be introduced, and of course a wide range of highly desirable microclimates within 150 miles.

                                                                                                                                                                    People have, over the years, been critical of the Ferry Plaza Farmers market for being too expensive and only attracting a certain kind of shopper, but those are the very things that allow the vendors at Ferry Plaza to experiment with new crops and new products: they know that they'll be exposed to a receptive audience and that they'll be able to charge enough to cover the risk/expense of trying something new. Trends that start at Ferry Plaza then start trickling down: other farmers see that the new product is successful and is commanding good prices, so they start planting it, so more becomes available, it become available in more markets, more people buy it, prices drop, etc. Think of all the stuff you can buy at a good supermarket now that 10-15 years ago you could only buy at a farmers market (or not at all in your area: on a recent visit to NYC I met a woman who had moved from Berkeley 20+ years ago and at the time was doing catering. She said she couldn't get things she was used to getting in Berkeley, like spring mix, and when she could, it was hideously expensive). Ten or fifteen years ago the only place you could get a Meyer lemon was someone's backyard in California, and now you can buy them at Costco in NY, because people like Alice Waters (and later Martha Stewart) brought them to people's attention and growers realized they could charge more for them than regular lemons (enough to offset the fact that they're more delicate and perishable).

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                      Just a note that Ferry Plaza is often less expensive than the mainstreem markets and certainly less expensive than Whole Foods. As you know, a few years back I did a price comparison
                                                                                                                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/426354

                                                                                                                                                                      I would say the microclimate has more to do with the abundance of varieties than any influence by Alice and group. I would reverse that. It was the farmers that allowed Waters to create her restaurant. She just paid attention to what was always there .

                                                                                                                                                                      I've been shopping Ferry Plaza long before it was any food mecca and the farmers there were always trying out new things and new crops.

                                                                                                                                                                      If anything Waters fucked up Ferry Plaza with her influence at the current location. It became less accessible in terms o f produce to customers and the vendors who have left over the years. Especially those selling non sexy produce such as root veggies. Tourists will look but not buy. Regulars are less likely to buy heavy produce they have to haul blocks to the parking garage ... but I've said that ad nauseum

                                                                                                                                                                      Sure there is someone new to take the place, but a lot of good people are gone ... and they still do their thing only elsewhere just not under the media glare.

                                                                                                                                                                      I am a fan of what Waters has done, but just not at Ferry Plaza.

                                                                                                                                                                      I know what you are saying tho, but I wanted to chime in on the perception of price and influence of California Cuisine on the farmers market. If no such awareness had taken place, these farmers would still be growing the same stuff ... it just might be that places like the costco in ny would not be selling meyer lemons

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                                                        I agree that not all vendors at Ferry Plaza are expensive, but some of them are. Farmers need to know they have a market for something before they'll invest resources (time, money, growing space) in growing it. At Ferry Plaza they know they'll have customers who are actually intrigued by trying new products and are willing to pay a premium price for novelty, which encourages farmers to make that investment.

                                                                                                                                              2. In So. CA, I get them right from the farm, fully ripe and sweeeeet! I'm spoiled, when I'm away I never buy them, especially in a store, they're tastless and not ripe. I will buy them or pick them, only when they're in season when traveling elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                                1. I lived in South New Jersey most of my 60 years. For the past eight years I live in Tampa Fl. My dad had a farm and raised some strawberries along with tomatoes and peppers. I think we ate more strawberries that we actually picked for market because they were sweet as sugar. Ever since I moved to Florida I cannot understand why people around here think these berries are delicious. Maybe it is because they have never taste what a strawberry suppose to taste like. They look good but have no taste at all. You have to put a pound of sugar on them to sweeten them up. Florida tomatoes and corn are tasteless too. Must be the sandy soil here but I guess they have to make a living some how. Maybe sticking with horses and cows!

                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Tonytampatony84850

                                                                                                                                                    I don't know if this has anything to do with the particular produce you've eaten in Florida, but the state is one of the largest growers (if not the largest) tomatoes - primarily they are year-round growers for the commodity market (grocery and food chains, institutional, food manufacturers). Also I'm guessing now, but Florida is probably the major source of strawbs for the eastern-half of the US. Again - think commodity level produce. We have the same issues in California, but we also have some really great varieties and small growers who care about their produce throughout the state as well.

                                                                                                                                                  2. Our strawberry season is very short here in Canada so in the off seasons we get imported strawberries from California that are rather tasteless. Now obviously I don't know what fresh California strawberries taste like just picked. I'm sure they are very tasty but because I live so far away they must travel for quite a while before reaching us. As strawberries lose their flavor very quickly the price drops continuously until delivered. Meaning lower quality product. We have a new type of strawberry here called day neutral that bear fruit in 6 week cycles from June to September and they are delicious. We have many farms just outside of the city that have pick your own. I also think the nectarines and peaches right now are tasteless. In August we have fabulous peaches and nectarines but once the season is over the grocery stores are full of under ripe rock hard fruit. If peaches and nectarines are picked before ready they do not ripen anymore. We get Driscoll's here too. I thought there were just tasteless because of the reason above...now I know different. Thanks

                                                                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: 02putt

                                                                                                                                                      We lived in northern California for 13 years and believe me the strawberries there were never remotely comparable to the ones I remember from sw Ontario. Presumably with farmer's markets in the city etc you can get good ones, but I haven't been there in season in a long time.
                                                                                                                                                      (Hamilton? Mustard? Didn't know.)

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                        Hamilton is world's largest dry mustard producers in world. G.S. Dunn Limited was founded in 1867. The current owners, Goderich Elevators is a publicly traded company. So if you want any mustard recipes you know who to ask!

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: 02putt

                                                                                                                                                          Hey hey! Husband is very fond of mustard. You should start a thread.
                                                                                                                                                          When I was little I got hold of some truly ancient mustard seed of my mom's and decided to plant it along our house. Mom said it would never germinate. Oh yeah? SW Ont must be its ideal habitat, it grew like crazy.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: 02putt

                                                                                                                                                        >>Our strawberry season is very short here in Canada so in the off seasons we get imported strawberries from California that are rather tasteless.<<

                                                                                                                                                        You summed up one of the most important criterion for so many things that we consume from nature - seasonality. We have strawbs almost all year long hear in SoCal, but the quality will vary considerably depending on what time of year and the source. I can get strawberries from November to March with no problem, but the berries' shoulders are white, the fragrance is weak, and texture is hard.

                                                                                                                                                        Our traditional strawb season is approximately from late April to mid-October, but solid from May to September. And if one only shops for produce at the local supers and chains, the vast majority of the strawbs will be fair to disappointing even during the peak season. IMHO, for "real" strawberries, one should go to the local FMs. We are fortunate to have some FM vendors who sell almost nothing but strawberries, and their produce is very good to spectacular.

                                                                                                                                                        One key to great berries is to let them mature longer on the plant. This obviously shortens their shelf-life and why you'll find the best only at FMs, but the wait is well worth it.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                          Here in upstate SC and lower NC there are a number of strawberry farms that offer pick your own (or they'll pick them for you for a fee) and the ones I've tried are very sweet, head and shoulders above what's being sold in the local grocery stores that were picked in California or Mexico. As to whether they're as sweet as they ysed to be I can't answer.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: richburgfoodie

                                                                                                                                                            I can't imagine eating a strawberry in SC/NC that originated in CA/MX. Can you imagine how far ahead that product had to be picked in order for it to weather the transit from here to there, as well as have a long enough shelf life to make it a viable product in a market? In my experience, a strawberry at its peak ripeness and flavor and that has not been prepared for home storage in the fridge has a realistic shelf life for maybe two-three days. With this being the case, I'd hope that what you've picked would be far better than the typical commodity-level produce found in your local supers.

                                                                                                                                                            There are more than a few pick-your-own produce farms around SoCal, but the drive, effort and time involved relegates this type of activity to recreation or "get in touch with what you eat" kind of experiences. Reputable farmers who bring their produce to the local FMs obviously can do this whole process much more efficiently not to mention the process of quality control. I'm not saying that there isn't a market for pick-your-own, but for most, it's not reality.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                              Not two or three weeks ago I went to a produce stand on my way to work and bought strawberries from Monroe, NC (about 20 miles away from the stand). That same day I was walking through a large regional grocery store and the strawberries were from CA, the Compari tomatoes were from Canada, melons from Mexico, and I could go on and on. This time of year produce stands in this area drive to Fla. and bring back vine ripened vegetables. As it gets warmer they move closer to their own zip code until they're eventually buying from local farms.

                                                                                                                                                      3. Years back, I used to travel to Italy each year, in May, for business. At that time of year, they always had small strawberries that were nice and sweet. American strawberries seem to have been bred to please the eye more than the palate.

                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Rmis32

                                                                                                                                                          Last weekend our marchand de 4 saisons (or better known as "fruit vegetable guy") in Paris sold us a whole bunch of Gariguette strawberries at a discount, because according to him they were at their ripest and had to be eaten that evening.
                                                                                                                                                          They were so sweet it was as though sugar had alreadt been sprinkled on them.
                                                                                                                                                          A dozen of them survived the dinner. All day Sunday their headt smell was unbearably distracting.

                                                                                                                                                          (Rmis, you are right. The Gariguettes were smaller and not as technicolor-bright as American strawberries, but, o boy, if these are strawberries, then we should find another word to call the North American decoys.)

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Parigi

                                                                                                                                                            They used to be utterly wonderful - small and very fragrant - years ago in southwestern Ontario (and I'm sure many other places), but agribusiness, shipping requirements, etc have made it very difficult onto impossible to find a truly excellent berry here, even at greenmarkets. A crying shame.

                                                                                                                                                        2. Omg there's a thread about this. I'm home. *tear*

                                                                                                                                                          Even after a lifetime of huge, hard, tasteless supermarket strawberries I still find myself having to consciously decide not to buy them sometimes. They LOOK so good. My eyes tell me they will be juicy and strawberry-y and delicious. And they never are.

                                                                                                                                                          I grew up on Vancouver Island in BC and my mother had a strawberry patch in the backyard. It never consistently produced many - but they were by far the best I have ever eaten. They tasted of strawberries. They were small and bright red and very prone to getting mushy quickly, so you had to eat em while you could - my siblings and I would descend like locusts the second they showed signs of being ripe and my mom never did manage to harvest enough to make jam. But I have never found good strawbs at the grocery store. Not in BC, not here in Montreal. I'd pay a premium for them if they existed (here).

                                                                                                                                                          Someone commented above about the peaches and nectarines in Canada - again, a childhood memory, we had a single, stunted peach tree in our yard that produced about 6-8 of the most delicious, juicy peaches you ever tasted every season. My ruthless parents chopped it down for being inefficient and I mourned those peaches for years. I eventually found a brand, from California, that used to show up in Thrifty's every season (they were definitely seasonally available, Thrifty's used to make a big song and dance about their arrival with signs and ads etc.), that compared to those backyard peaches. The name involved the word "Frog" anf the word "Farm" - I want to say Frog Farm but that sounds incorrect. Those peaches were a juicy revelation. And if they were for sale in BC, they're probably available in other non-California areas, too. Does anyone know the brand I'm talking about? They were deep orange, like farm-egg yolks, not those pale-fleshed, only-tastes-of-sugar peaches you see a lot.

                                                                                                                                                          Btw, a question from someone who knows nothing of fruit cultivation and breeding. Since they can engineer huge tasteless strawbs that look great and ship well, could they also, if the will existed, engineer ugly-but-delicious strawbs that shipped well? I mean, COULD they do it, even though they probably, in reality, wouldnt?

                                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: montrealeater

                                                                                                                                                            Frog Hollow Farm - famous in CA, served at Chez Panisse. And I'm the Canadian nostalgic for the sweet Red Havens of home.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: montrealeater

                                                                                                                                                              It takes many generations of breeding to perfect a given strain of strawberry. Furthermore, every strain is always a compromise between toughness (with respect to weather conditions), pest resistance, fecundity, reliability, ability to withstand the rigors of transport to market, appearance, and taste.

                                                                                                                                                            2. Oh, but the pick-your-own strawberries on the North Fork of LI in June! Small, juicy, and red through and through. Still warm from the sun. One in the mouth, one in the pail. They are the BEST!

                                                                                                                                                              1. I think the supermarket strawberries are unusually good this year.

                                                                                                                                                                1. Agree. But, go to Spain. Strawberries live. Best is to rent an apartment so you can enjoy market food (amazing fresh fruit, slabs of very fresh swordfish, baby artichokes sold by the kilo) which are better than restaurant food (fried grease). Failing that, just buy some fruit and sneak it into your hotel room. Best strawberries I have tasted in decades.

                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                                    You don't have to sneak food into a hotel room. You can eat whatever you want when you stay in a hotel. You can't have a barbecue in there, and obviously it would be kind not to leave a mess for the housekeepers, but otherwise, the place is your room and you can partake in whatever you wish, so long as it's legal.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. i think strawberries today are sweeter than they were even ten years ago. i am also happy with the consistent quality.

                                                                                                                                                                    ps, related "tip" -- even when the strawberries are on sale, it is still cheaper to buy odwalla's "strawberry c-monster" than "make it" yourself. that is one "test" i have done.

                                                                                                                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                      I recedntly found some berries that had languished in their plastic clamshell original packaging for a couple of weeks in the (very cold) fridge. A few of them were moldy, the rest a bit wizzly but they tasted better than when they were "new" so I used them in a strawberry, cherry tomato, and feta salad (bastardization of Dorie G's salad with mozz) and it was delicious. It must be that they dried somewhat and the flavor was concentrated. I'm going to try this again.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                        "hey produce man, can i have that OLD box of strawberries over there?" ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                        new trend: sun-dried strawberries; oven-roasted strawberries.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                          It was one of those "What? They're still there? Oh, pitch them...wait a minute, let me have a look" moments. Glad I did.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                            i've got some "counter-top dried" blueberries here in my kitchen. mr. alka at the store, "oh, i love blueberries." then….at home with the blueberries, they sit …then go into the fridge...and sit…and dry. i think i'll use them in a salad today!

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                              I've used them in muffins and they don't bleed. They're a buy and sit thing here too.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                          Now that you mention this, I have found that grocery-store-bought strawbs DO taste best just as theyre about to, or have already started, to turn a little. And yeah, it's often when some of them have already started going moldy!

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                              It's the mold ... like blue cheese. You know, even though you can't see it, once there is mold, the spores are likely on the other strawberries though you can't see them. Maybe it is just better to get a dehydrator?

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                                                                We ate them without problems, so if so, it's a benign mold. The taste was not moldy in the least.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                  Yeah, agree with buttertart re: the taste (hey it COULD be the mold, if it is a mold that tastes like strawberries) - I usually try to avoid the mold but know that once one thing has mold, it's likely everywhere even if you can't see it. I know I've probably ingested a fair bit of strawb mold over my lifetime. So far I'm OK. Other than the strawberry growing out of my left ear.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Speaking of strawbs, just to see, I just picked up a punnet from the local Loblaws - Red Jack brand, Central West Produce, Santa Maria California. Will give them a try in a few mins. They certainly SMELL very strawberry-y, but then again they always do. They were on sale, too, 3 1lb punnets for $5.

                                                                                                                                                                                  EDIT: OK, for supermarket strawbs these are probably the best I've had in a long time. They still don't even begin to compare to the ones in my mom's garden, but these do actually taste of strawberries, and only a few of them had that odd unripe/bitter taste to them. I think they were on sale because they're just about to turn - some of the shoulders were getting soft, so I think that probably helped the flavour, too. I might even go back and get the 3 punnets deal on these. Again, in an objective sense, not in any way spectacular. For imported supermarket produce? Not bad, not bad.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: montrealeater

                                                                                                                                                                                    I've ruled out smell on strawberries as an indicator. Usually it means some are crushed or aging. Then again, aged strawberries might be the thing. more flavorfull ... with or without mold.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: montrealeater

                                                                                                                                                                                      I love you because you used the word punnet, montrealeater. Much nicer than plastic clamshell. Punnet brings to mind paper lined with violet leaves or something of the sort.

                                                                                                                                                                        3. I would have said that strawberries have no flavor anymore except that I picked some amazing ones today on a farm outside of Boston. They were dead ripe, some were more than ripe, and they were warm from the sun and so sweet and full of strawberry flavor! I have picked there before and they were good, but this time they were incredible! So my faith in food has been restored.

                                                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                                                                                                                                            Proper temperature is so important in not only creating a great strawberry, but eating one as well. The best strawberry is a slightly warm strawberry to the tongue. IMHO, a cold strawberry is dull compared to a warm one. This goes for so many foods as well. "Room temperature" seems to be forbidden in our society for safety concerns, but so many foods taste so much better at this temperature.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                              Yes! I totally agree. I often take food out of the fridge for a while to "take the chill off", but my mother eats things right out of the fridge, which to my mind reduces flavor and it makes my teeth hurt!

                                                                                                                                                                          2. Well I just came back from Seoul a week ago. I had the strawberries that were grown in Korea. They were so sweet and really juicy, and they were pretty big as well. Too bad I went when it was the final days of the season.

                                                                                                                                                                            However I bought some Ontario stawberries yesterday and those were small and bland. Maybe because of climate change...

                                                                                                                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: AngelSanctuary

                                                                                                                                                                              seriously? climate change accounts for small and bland strawberries from ontario? maybe the
                                                                                                                                                                              microclimate where they grew! or a bad season, or an incompetent farmer, or an early harvest….

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                You had your Ontario strawberries too soon. They are just coming into harvest season now. In another week or two they will be sweet and delicious. Everything is behind 2-3 weeks here in Southern Ontario due to the unusual colder spring we had.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: 02putt

                                                                                                                                                                                  The strawberries I remember growing up in London, ON were by far the best I've ever had anywhere. Breadcrumbs (a Toronto-area poster I'm very fond of) has said that farmers aren't growing the old killingly fragrant ones as much any more. A shame.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                    There is hope:

                                                                                                                                                                                    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/daily...

                                                                                                                                                                                    If you aren't familiar with David Karp, he's one fruit geek (I mean that as a compliment) well worth following.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                                      I've been a fan of his for some time. ...des bois strawberries are a whole order of wonderfulness above any others.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm glad to hear that you've known of David for some time. He is a living treasure. We used to chat a lot (or I should say I'd ask a question and then try to absorb all he could regurgitate just off the top of his head) when he lived in Venice but has since moved to Hollywood and beyond. I've seen him a few times since at the local FMs and is still as inquisitive as ever.

                                                                                                                                                                                        If you read the whole article, I hope you picked up on the part about the patent running out this year - this could result in some amazing things relative to strawberries in America, mainly at the FM level. Keep your fingers crossed and your nose up in the wind...

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                                          Hope hope hope hope hope so...it's a long way back to the strawberries of yesteryear.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. Disagree. Just had a punnet of Scottish strawberry's from Sainsbury's. Small, sweet and full of flavour.

                                                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: stilldontknow

                                                                                                                                                                                Don't buy supermarket berries when you're in the States, you'll be bitterly disappointed.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                  I don't think that a blanket statement like that can possibly be true. We've been buying some really great strawberries this spring and I know they are not local because we have had such a wet spring, the local strawberries are at least a couple of weeks behind and not a very big crop. I don't know where the berries are coming from, but they are good. Now, if you said something about how bad the fresh strawberries are in December in the supermarket, I would likely agree with you.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                                    A little unfair maybe, but even the Greenmarket NJ strawberries I've had this year weren't terrific (I expect because of the wet spring too). I've had tolerable berries from supermarkets this spring but nothing really great. Unfortunately.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. I'm fortunate to get berries from my farmers markets. Strawberries and blackberries were gushing with flavor!

                                                                                                                                                                                1. If you are talking about the horrid Driscoll's, then yes, they have no flavor. They look like strawberries and smell like them but are flavorless. Locally grown from old varieties are loaded with flavor. They may be smaller and not the big plump things we are used to finding in the supermarkets, not as beautiful when dipped, but the flavor is incomparable.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Oh, yes.....Bring back normal "human" strawberries, stop feeding us those carrot-like monster mutans... Just today I got Discrolls, to make a 5-minute jam for dessert, and I had to... chop those monsters with a knife, with such an effort, as if they were carrots or potatoes, really... And added sugar produced no juice at all - i had to add water, and the bastards just floated, like cotton balls... These are Not berries, they are dry, firm and porous vegetable mutants, with no taste... Peaches - same thing, apricots - same thing.... The fruit does not even smell like itself....I want a piece of fruit that will sprinkle juice all over you when you bite it, and I want intense, sweet-and-tangy flavors... I used to grow my own fruit and sell it, I know the best and the worst of it, and what is sold in US to general public is really a perfect-looking.. hm.. FAKE?

                                                                                                                                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: vvedo

                                                                                                                                                                                      Cotton balls, indeed! At $1.00 each a pink grapefruit this time of year should smell so wonderful and juicy....big cotton ball! No thanks!

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: vvedo

                                                                                                                                                                                        >>> had to add water, and the bastards just floated, like cotton balls

                                                                                                                                                                                        Very funny.

                                                                                                                                                                                        BUT ... what are you doing buying strawberries in February?

                                                                                                                                                                                        In Northern California they are out of season. I drive by the fields just starting to have green peeking through the rich black fields. Even in SoCal the season has barely started and the first berries are reaching the farmers markets here.

                                                                                                                                                                                        So even farmers market berries lack taste. I bought a variety called Fortuna and while the tips had the promise this could be a good variety, they just weren't ripe enough.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                                                                          They're in season in Florida. Just got some last week. Tried two different brands. Blah.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: racer x

                                                                                                                                                                                            Brands or varieties?

                                                                                                                                                                                            If you are bying a strawberry from Driscol or some other vender is irrelevant. Those supermarket strawberries re all going to taste the same.

                                                                                                                                                                                            If you are talking variety, so far no one has bred the flavor out of Chandlers. I've never been a fan of Seascapes or other varieties as much as the Chandlers.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I don't know how far into the strawberry season it is in FL, but early usually isnt as flavorful. I did have some really sweet strawberries in January from a farmstand near San Diego a few years ago.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                                                                              They weren't Driscoll's -- they were two local Florida companies. And I wasn't making a point about one brand being superior to others, just pointing out that it didn't seem to be an issue of a single bad batch from a single vendor.

                                                                                                                                                                                              As for being early in the season ...
                                                                                                                                                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/705656

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                                                                                The local FMs in SoCal have strawberries 12 months/year now. The quality and varieties obviously fluctuate in the traditionally off-months/seasons. I'm willing to try the samples, but almost never take the bait. The rest of my family aren't as traditional though...

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                                                                              100% agree. Honestly if you want fruit or produce to taste better, start buying only when they are in season and then stick local. Buy strawberries in February and you get waht you deserve. Growing up in Florida, we get strawberries in late spring. In CT they show up in June. Tiny little things that are bright red and leaking juice all over the place. One reason why good berries can only be gotten locally is that you can't ship them without turning into mush. Same with tomatos.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                                                                                                                You don't get local strawberries in Florida until mid to late June? Late spring IS June and that's when we get local strawberries (most years, it depends on the weather of course) in Minnesota.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Spring by calendar terms starts around March 21. Summer on June 21. I said spring in FL so call it late April into May. Mid to late June in CT which is pushing early summer.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. Driscoll = strawberries so worthless I wouldn't take them if they were free.

                                                                                                                                                                                            The problem isn't the taste or texture, there is a bigger issue. The acidity of these things now approaches that of a lemon. Literally. I actually contemplated borrowing a pH meter to check it. Nobody has mentioned the acidity yet. Who goes into Vons/Safeway everyday and even bothers to buy these things? I guess there's a lot more professional food photographers out there than I would have guessed.

                                                                                                                                                                                            There is a solution however for those of us who only shop at Safeway, etc. In the organic section at Safeway/Vons, there is the 'Eat Sweet' brand of strawberry. They're always lighter colored than Driscoll. I'm not even saying they necessarily have more flavor or even that they're sweeter. The important thing is, they aren't sour like lemons. So you can at least actually eat them!

                                                                                                                                                                                            I went to strawberry festival in Oxnard, CA five years ago and my brother got a flat of Driscoll strawberries. Guess what. They brought out the good stuff. They must have set aside a special crop (and heirloom breed) just for the strawberry festival. (PR) They tasted better than any candy I ever had in my life. It was a revelation. I then spent the next five years trying to get strawberries like that in a major grocery store without success. A lot of times old timers will talk about how good tomatoes used to be. Maybe there's something I'm missing out on there, too.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I think Driscoll's is now messing up blackberries, too. I believe blackberries are hardier fruit and probably taste good even when growing like weeds at the side of the highway. And unlike strawberries, I traditionally haven't had a problem with sour blackberries from the grocery store. But last couple Driscoll blackberries I got were super sour. Please, please Driscoll, don't jack up blackberries too. I recently saw TWO DIFFERENT shows on the food network where there was a chef cooking competition and they were using Driscoll blackberries. In both cases the judges complained about the sourness of the dessert dish, as if the cooks in the competition had done something wrong. Nobody made the connection it was the Driscoll berries.

                                                                                                                                                                                            My mom just received a $90+ fruit arrangement from Edible Arrangements. She opened it up and bit into a strawberry. It literally sounded like she bit into an apple. I didn't even bother trying any of the arrangement.

                                                                                                                                                                                            12 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Delivery_Boy

                                                                                                                                                                                              I could be wrong about the acid issue, but e.g., citrus is a very acid fruit. The amount of sugar in the fruit tends be in inverse relation to the apparent tartness in taste. The amount/level of acidity in citrus is high. Without sugar, the taste is mouth-puckering sour. However, as the sugar content builds up in any given citrus, the sweetness overrides the tartness. Oranges obviously contain a load of sugar at their peak ripeness. But the same oranges will taste more tart at varying ripening levels relative to the level of sugar content. Lemons typically have a very low sugar content - that's just the way the are - and no matter how ripe they are, they will always taste relatively tart.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Strawbs can be the same way - they are loaded with acid, particularly citric and ascorbic acid, and the amounts will vary depending on variety. I'm guessing the Driscoll issue was a matter of ripeness for the most part. The ones in the clear clamshells at the market typically seem to have been picked at least a few days too early - shipping/shelf life trumps lost opportunity of building up more sugar . Also the variety (often times I believe often times it's the tougher textured Camarosa) can determine the relatively "crispness" even when ripe. Driscoll might have devoted some acreage to Chandlers, which are nearly twins in appearance to the typical contemporary supermarket varieties, but are sweeter, juicier and more luscious in texture. Also, being that the Strawb Festival is in Oxnard, the stem time for shipping wasn't an issue - those were probably picked the day before.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                                                I have a question about citrus. if a navel orange is tart instead of sweet is it because it has a lower sugar level than a sweeter navel or is it because it has a higher acid level? Or to put it another way, I thought Meyer lemons tasted more sweet than regular lemons because they have a lower acid level. Now you're telling me it's because a Meyer lemon has more sugar?

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Meyers are actually a cross between a lemon and a mandarin (or orange). That explains the less tart/sweeter flavor profile.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Oranges are actually believed to be ancient hybrids themselves - crossed between mandarins and pomelos. When it comes to navels, they are higher in certain other esters that can give off a bitter or sour taste - I don't know the reason why some may have more of that than others. It could be just a slight difference in growing culture (e.g., slightly more sun/less water than other trees). Also, just the randomness of picking fruit at varying levels of ripeness from the same tree can result in varying taste. We have a navel orange tree in back, and this happens all the time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I know that about Meyers. I told my father to plant one 6 years ago but he never did. He has 2 lemns, a ruby red, Valencia, and a navel tree. My question still remains, does citrus taste 'sweeter' because of lower acid or higher sugar? This winter they had a lot of white grapefruit that was desvribed as 'sweet'. So, is it because of higher sugar or lower acid? I suppose this is a question for a citrus expert.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      It can be either, or both. Depends on the citrus. For example the Ugli (whose parentage is not entierly known, but is presumed to be part grapefruit, part mandarin) can (empasis on can, there are a lot of strains of ugil now, and some taste more like one parent than another). taste suprisingly unacidic, since the mercurial nature of the plants genes mean the acid level can vary almost as much as the sugar.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      The thing is, at least in my opinion, you WANT some of the acid, it's a pretty integral part of how a citrus fruit tastes. There actually are citrus fruits with virtually no acid. They're called Palestinian (or Jamiaican) sweet lemons/limes. And the do taste sweet. The thing is with no acid behind them (and most fruit flavors have some sort of acid as part of them, whether citric, tartaric or another) they also taste, at least in my opinion "flat". with no acid to back the flavor up, they basically taste like sligtly resinous sugar water.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I recently bought some of the sweet lemons (at Trade Fair on Broadway in Astoria) and didn't like them, very apt description of their taste, jumpingmonk. File under fruits you have to have grown up with to like.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I have eaten ugly fruit with little or not taste. I don't buy them not because of the taste but because I get plenty of citrus free these days. (Plus I seem to get my fill when visiting my father in Arizona).

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Like I said, there are muliple strains, some taste good, some don't (most of the oens this year have been lousy)

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                                                    There is a a lot more going on at Driscoll than just picking the fruit early. They had to developed a breed that looks superficially ripe when it isn't. (very red on surface, white in center) They maybe also developed the breed so that the plant probably never CAN ripen in the field. (otherwise I would have occasionally experience a nonsweet but nonsour as well Driscoll berry) They developed the breed so that it is inherently higher acidity in the first place. (prolly spliced in some citrus genes)

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Delivery_Boy

                                                                                                                                                                                                      >>There is a a lot more going on at Driscoll than just picking the fruit early. They had to developed a breed that looks superficially ripe when it isn't. (very red on surface, white in center)<<

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I honestly don't know either way. Driscoll is definitely large enough to research and create their own proprietary varieties, but sugar content comes down to ripening. I've seen/sampled strawberries with those characteristics that you describe even at the FMs - usually in late autumn/winter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I used to have the great fortune of regularly having conversations with David Karp, probably the foremost authority on fruit in general. I learned a lot from him - here's a random article he wrote for the NY Times back in 2005. I hope it helps:

                                                                                                                                                                                                      http://www.plantsciences.ucdavis.edu/...

                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. re: Delivery_Boy

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Personally I think that those Edible Arrangement things are the worst waste of money I have ever seen. The fruit is beautiful but doesn't have much flavor and if you expect to keep the thing you either have to have a massively huge refrigerator or else take it all apart right away so you can refrigerate the fruit in covered containers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                                                                      OMG! OMG! (and I almost never use internet/texting acronyms)....please let's not start another Edible Arrangements thread! A while back there was a quite spirited thread about Edible Arrangements. I tried to find it but since it got locked maybe it won't show up in the search engine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  4. They are back!!!!! Chandler strawberries, old time strawberry flavor, Harry's Berries

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Too many posts to read all of them at this point, but just a few thoughts.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      French strawberries, bought in Paris at a produce vendor across from our apartment? Absolutely the best strawberries I've EVER had.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Ontario strawberries from the U-pick? Really, really good.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Strawberries from the Farmer's Market? Really really good IF locally grown. Really really BAD if they are resells from grocery store resellers.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Grocery store strawberries? I don't remember when I've ever had a good one. Ever. Always bright red and oddly "crunchy" or ripe, red and mushy/moldy. Blech.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Strawberries from my wild strawberry patch that is growing out of control (unplanted by me, unplanned by me, just appeared so I've let them go)? AMAZING, but really, really REALLY small.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Wild strawberries...the most amazing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                                          It all started with a small patch by my gate that I certainly didn't plant. They overtook the grass quickly, choked it out and started moving down the fairly steep slope to the back of our property. I made a decision 5 years ago to let them go. I can't mow the slope in any event, BUT I certainly can harvest wild strawberries! They're slowly creeping down the slope and I couldn't be happier!

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                                                                                            My wild strawberries (well my alpine strawberries, which I think are the same thing) are in a half whiskey barrel on my patio. While too few to really give me any volume, they do have the advantage of doing thier best in really cold weather, which means the stawberries I get come in either very early in the spring, before most fresh fruit comes into the farmers markets or late in the fall, after it has all gone (it is not uncommon for me to be serving fresh picked ruit from them at the end of Thanksgiving dinner. They don't always have wonderful flavor, but part of that may arise from the fact that they happen to be white fruited strawberries, so it's a little had to tell when they are ripe. As an added bonus just after I planted the original seeds, the space under them was taken over by a hive of sweat bees which has two big advantages, I get 100% pollination and they form a great defence against birds who might otherwise eat the fruit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Great, I am SO JEALOUS of both of you!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  You ought to give them a whirl - they're pretty easy to grow and reseed like crazy if you let them. As inferred by those two above - they're like weeds that you want to keep...

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: freia

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Fraises de Plougastel , from Brittany, but available in Paris for a short season. Yum! Or eaten straight from the farmers' market in Brittany.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. This brief piece ran on NPR yesterday: "Bigger, Blander, Blegh: Why Are Strawberries Worse?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                          http://www.npr.org/2012/05/17/1529448...

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: racer x

                                                                                                                                                                                                            This story on strawberries was also broadcast on NPR yesterday.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012...

                                                                                                                                                                                                            A couple of points I took from it:
                                                                                                                                                                                                            - California produces 80% of the nation's strawberries, and that figure is growing.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            - "even California's organic strawberry growers buy their plants from nurseries that do use fumigation. Nobody wants to run the risk of bringing diseased plants into their fields."

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. If they don't smell like strawberries from several feet away, I don't buy them. Doesn't matter where, market or grocery.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Leepa

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Two days ago I was driving down a farm road in Oxnard and was blown away by overpowering strawberry smells entering my car. Not saying this never happens, but it hasn't happened in a while and it's never been that strong. Then yesterday I found out why. Today is the strawberry festival. Driscoll must have been whipping out their special batch of Chandlers for the festival.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Wishes farms is the place you are looking for. I just tried some here in Ohio, the other day. Real strawberries! I was so glad. Check them out. Google them. They are truly the bomb. They also have blueberries , strawberries and veggies too. I love them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. Funny you should mention that...I recently picked up a two-pound box from Stop and Shop...HUGE berries...but practically tasteless. I mean, you can TELL they're strawberries by the taste, but if you mix them with anything, they'd be lost...yougurt, cottage cheese...any cheese for that matter...and very dry...hardly ANY juice whatsoever.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: njmarshall55

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Hunterdon County N.J. back in the 1950's was very rural with many farms and open fields. I guess I knew where every wild strawberry patch was within a mile of my house in Whitehouse Station (and there were many). If you had the patience and didn't eat more than you put in your basket, it was very easy to bring a quart or two in an afternoon of picking. Those other "things", while huge and beautiful, fell far, far short of tasting like the real thing. My mother, in a very disdainful way, referred to them as "cultivated" strawberries which they were, but the way she said it made this little boy feel that they were to be avoided......absolutely.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Eventually, homes were built on the majority of my "secret" patches and, as I got older and my pursuits turned to other things, the cultivated variety creeped into our daily. These days we buy them and use them regularly and sometimes they're good and sometimes not so much but, in my heart, I know they don't hold a candle to the real thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: grampart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Grew up in Bergen County in the 60's...I do miss the high quality produce from home available on road side stands and pick your own farms. Have been disappointed by farmer's markets as of late, as well. An entire box of cubanelle peppers infested with worms.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: njmarshall55

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yea, i actually avoid the larger berries as they are usually pure white, hard flesh which always is bland and tasteless.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. Agree. I've also noticed that fast food restaurants do have very sweet strawberries. Where are they getting theirs? Are they finding a way to sweeten them? Chick-fil-a has a salad that always has super sweet strawberries.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. I purchased 3 strawberry plants about 3 years ago from folks who grow their own plants. I have them planted in a very small area in my backyard. For a couple of weeks, I have wonderful, delicious strawberries that I pick from my very own back yard. Try growing your own and leaving the supermarket ones alone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. 3 years or so ago, I purchased 3 strawberry plants at my local growers. Every year since, I have a couple weeks of delicious strawberries right in my own backyard. Some are big berries, some are smaller and all taste awesome. These plants self propagate so the original 3 are now at least 30 plus plants. I just popped 2 small ones in my mouth as I am typing...Yummy! Try it. Doesn't take a lot of space to grow your own. The plot of ground they are growing on is less than 5' x 3'.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. 100% agree. Especially the so-called giant ones. All core. I think they have all been genetically tampered with and that's why they have no flavor. Same with apples. They have been tampered with so that they will last for a year in storage before they go to market. Now they taste like water.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          11 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: lspfb68

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Until consumer expectations with regards to what strawberries should be like change, the trend towards flavourless berries is likely to continue. Specifically, until consumers are happy to pay perhaps twice the price for strawberries that look decidedly battered and are half the size of current ones, and understand that they must be eaten the same day as they were bought, which will have to have been sometime in late June or very early July, with no further opportunities until next year, then no real widespread availability of good strawberries is likely to occur.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The much sadder part of this story is that an entire cultural memory of what strawberries can be like is being slowly wiped out - as younger generations grow up without even having had the opportunity to experience what is possible. If this continues, it will lead inevitably to a permanent deterioration in strawberries - and quite possibly in food, generally, as the population gets used to things without any flavour.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Indeed, if the trend goes on long enough it's entirely possible that the idea of good flavour *itself* will vanish - as everything becomes so homogenised that it basically tastes identical (something like this has *already* happened, to all intents and purposes, for milk), and people will consider eating a purely mechanical task done out of necessity.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              And I am sure that some in power, particularly in the Department of Health, would approve, if not encourage or even mandate such a change on the grounds that if eating becomes a pure act of neccecity, the obesity episdemic would probably disappear (if food brings no pleasure why would you eat more than you have to) as well as a consolidation of producers (everything tastes the same, all the edges that win most of the brand loyalty/ variety disappear and food production probably centralizes into the hands of a few major corporations) that would result in an easier time of regulation and control (fewer companies, fewer inspectors needed and more regular inspections)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              One thing though, your time period only seems to work if you are working from only one type of strawberry. Since wild strawberries are being brought up, I should point out there are a LOT of species of those and they vary GREATLY in the season they ripen in. Back when I still had my alpines which are cold season(which tasted as strawberry like as any good strawberry I have had) I used to get two crops off one ; one in early March or even late February and one all the way in November/December. I regularly would bring fresh picked strawberries off my plants to Thanksgiving dinner (and I'm in New York). And there are strawberry species that are even MORE cold loving than alpines. A clever farmer with a wide selection could basically supply fresh berries pretty much from the end of the winter freeze to the beginning of the next one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I was just watching Mind of a Chef, which included comments from a strawberry grower in Roscoe, NY, which is in the Catskills. His Tri-Star variety is not as small as wild strawberries, more the size of grape tomatoes. He claims it has all the 50+ flavor compounds of the wild form, and is harvested from spring through autumn. He sells them (out) at NYC farmers' markets.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm thinking of the cultivated strawberry varieties. Wild strawberries are a different matter, but almost all the quality cultivated varieties ripen in a narrow window at the end of June/beginning of July. Individual varieties could be relatively early- or late-fruiting but even with that the season was typically short but intense. Indeed, one of the issues traditionally associated with the strawberry season is labour; it was always a challenge to hire enough pickers to pick the entire crop before they spoiled. I've heard stories about farms picking at midnight, by the light of head-torches.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: lspfb68

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                If by apples you mean Red Delicious apples, then I agree. However there are more varieties of good apples available now than ever before.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  When Red Delicious are good - which is seldom - they *are* delicious. I read that you increase your chances of a good one if you look for those that are lighter red, with some greenish/yellowish striping. The problem is that we instinctively pick the darkest red ones, which tend to be bitter-skinned and mealy, because in other red fruits, those are the sweetest.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    We'd avoided Red Delicious for years, in favor of Gala, Fuju, Braeburn etc...
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Last fall we were getting some less-than-stellar apples, so grabbed some RD on sale. Surprise! Aside from a slightly tough skin, they were everything we look for, juicy, crunchy, sweet and tart. Maybe it was just a really good year for RD, but we kept coming back to them all winter long.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      When I was a kid, one of my favorite fall activities was when our family went to a 'pick your own' apple orchard. I remember that they had fantastic Red Delicious apples every other year. They had the old standbys such as Haralson, Fireside, Prairie Spy, and others that were originated at the University of Minnesota.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      More recently, they have introduced the Honeycrisp, SweeTango, and Zestar! They're really sweet.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: lspfb68

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    apples "Now they all taste like water"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I agree except for the Honeycrisp variety. Their flavor seems concentrated like the apples of my youth.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    http://host.madison.com/entertainment...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: zackly

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I recently picked up a bag of Galas that had no taste. Like water! :(

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: zackly

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        For me, there only two worthwhile apples - in-season, fresh Macouns (they do not store well) and Braeburns. Never did understand how Delicious got their name - must have been a marketing move.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Of course that's true for strawberries as well. Those that are shipped across the country tend to be terrible. The fresh, native ones tend not to ship / store well, but they can have exceptional flavor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. If you ever get a chance to try wild strawberries, they are awesome. I've only had the French fraise du bois which are small yet packed with deliciousness

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: zackly

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It's been nearly 60 yrs since a childhood vacation hike in the Catskill Mountains, where the most intoxicating smell led us to investigate what was hiding beneath the carpet of green in a woodland clearing, warmed by the sun shining on their leafy umbrellas. The wild strawberries were no bigger than a fingertip, perfectly ripe, eaten on the spot. To this day, far and away my most vivid food memory, and the best thing I ever ate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Totally agree! To those of us that still carry a "taste-memory" of a wild strawberry, what's available today is a poor substitute.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: grampart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            So that's what strawberries are suppose to look like? Who knew ;)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: grampart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              However I want to note also that while wild strawberries are lovely, the cultivated ones were once lovely as well. A very few still are, in the small number of farms that still grow for flavour and gamble that they'll have a devoted market (not usually a big gamble!), but by and large good cultivated strawberries are difficult to find, even now, at the height of strawberry season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: grampart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Little ones like that grow rampant all over my lawn. Unfortunately, most are too small to pick, but it's a wonder that year after year they pop up. The small white blossoms are everywhere. I have no idea how they got here, except that there's a cooperative extension within walking distance from my house. I get the occasional new perennial, thanks to the birds, so perhaps the same with the strawberries.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: breadchick

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  They could be what are called Mock strawberries. Won't harm you, but have no flavor.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  http://newlifeonahomestead.com/2011/0...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: grampart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Hi, grampart: they have white blossoms and do have a nice flavor (since I ate a few when we moved here.) It's just the really small size that makes it not worth the bother. Plus, we step on them and so do the dogs - and we know what dogs do...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Nice, I'm hoping to one day stumble upon a patch of morel mushrooms. When I was a kid in the 1950's we used to pick wild blueberries. My mom would bake pies that were outstanding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: zackly

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Fraise du bois grow well from seed (assuming the DestructoCat doesn't knock them all over the floor: most of them recovered, though). There are also wild North America varieties, but from my childhood experience they don't travel well, since they always ended up in my mouth before they could make it to the kitchen!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                There's a variety native to the American West Coast, Fragaria chiloensis, that produces similar-looking berries that IMHO have at best an insipid flavor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                My theory about the trend towards huge berries: in the US strawberries are usually sold by the container. So if you can fill up a pint basket with bigger berries you save on labor costs in the long run as it takes fewer berries to fill a basket.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                BTW, the big ones can have flavor if they're allowed to ripen on the plants. There are a lot of big growers within 50 miles of where I live, and some of them show up at the local markets with berries that were picked too ripe to ship. Those aren't bad.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. The only good strawberries I have had in about thirty years were in Spain.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Disagree. We have a lot of strawberries here, from different grocery chains, and no, none of them taste like the perfect little bite of a homegrown alpine strawberry, but in southern AZ, one has to settle, not being in the Alps. I like a nice strong strawberry flavor, if it isn't authentic I'm sorry, but it's better than no strawberries.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Fully agree that strawberries from major grocers are terrible (especially Driscolls), but now that it's strawberry season, we once again had some very tasteful native berries yesterday (RI) that were likely picked within a day- purchased at the farm.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In recent years, we've had some exceptional berries in several states including GA, CT, RI & ME, but always as local / native, freshly picked berries.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Yes, strawberries that are bred for shipping are not worth while, but if you are fortunate to live near a farm, it is possible to get very flavorful berries, but be prepared to pay 2-3 times the price of CA berries.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Clams047

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I did something yesterday I rarely do. I returned a quart of red rocks called "Organic Strawberries" to the supermarket. They just weren't worth eating, and I was mad as hell and wasn't going to take it anymore.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I've never been a big fan of most produce, and this is why. There are entire seasons when peaches just fail to function as food. Cherries are usually good -- I got some decent Rainiers this week at Costco -- and blueberries seem impervious to the faults fruits fall heir to. But these strawberries...I told the woman the store should feel corporately embarrassed, selling such flavorless "product" and calling it food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Just bought two one pound containers of Driscoll Strawberries. They were on sale for 2 for $5.00. They looked beautiful,, dark red with no white at all but sadly they were as expected, watery and very little strawberry favor or sweetness. I still enjoy them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. I agree with you completely, Suse.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I did have one revelation. My girlfriend and I traveled by car along the Rhine River recently. (We have now repeated this strawberry experience several times over several years.) About ten miles north of Rudesheim we came across a series of fruit stands with the most flavorful, sweet strawberries which we had ever had. They actually tasted of intense strawberry flavor!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          My understanding is that these strawberries were not unique to this area. You can get good German strawberries in many places. Their characteristics were that they were entirely red (no white parts at the shoulders), much smaller than the strawberries we get in the U.S., much more intensely strawberry-flavored, and significantly sweeter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          They were also more expensive, but certainly well worth the added price.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Thought I was eating the first 'Diet Strawberry!'

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. drive up, down or across from wherever you live to Camarillo Ca and pick up a giant box of fresh strawberries from a stand. you'll not soon be disappointed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. I agree 100%. The strawberries you buy in the grocery store are rather disappointing, somewhat bitter, and quite tasteless. I know how great strawberries can taste when you pick them straight from the field. In Denmark where I was raised, strawberry season was only for about 1 month every summer. Those strawberries would taste absolutely amazing. Nowadays you can get strawberries year round, but they must have either genetically engineered them or treated them in some way, because they simply don't taste like in the good old days...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. I agree that the Driscoll's are tasteless. I live in the NW Pacific now, but I have
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  problems finding really good strawberries also. I was in Paris two weeks ago, and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  had the most delicious strawberries I've had in years. They were quite small,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  maybe 3/4" long, but plump and wonderfully sweet. I had them in a lovely cafe
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  with breakfast every morning, but I also saw them for sale by the pint at the corner
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Saturday market (a wonderful experience unlike any street market I've been to
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  in the US). I wish I knew the variety as I'd like to see if I can grow them next year.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I am growing ever-bearing strawberries right now, but they aren't as sweet as I'd
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  like. I hope to find a sweeter variety. I think we've hybridized the heck out of the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  strawberries in this country, in large part because I believe everything made for
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Americans needs to be BIG! Now don't get me wrong, I used to live close to Plant City, FL; and as I remember they have really large strawberries that actually taste good too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  When we were in Paris, they served us a lot more bread than they did the locals.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The "Americain" breakfast was larger than the locally-preferred breakfast listed on the menu. My son and I felt it was because they think we eat a lot more than Europeans. That may be true. I was impressed that the Parisians just ate a long
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  sliced baquette with butter and jam for breakfast, and yet everyone was thin. They
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  don't seem to be all worried about carbs over there. It was refreshing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  On the other hand, we saw more educated, white collar, well-off types smoking than we'd ever see here, so maybe that's part of the way they stay thin. Anyway, that's off the subject, but I'd sure like to know what type of strawberry they served.