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Local strawberries - am I the only one disappointed this year?

Is it just me, or are they not as good as last year's? I've bought twice now and both have been not too sweet, on the tart side and very mushy. Is it the weather, or just my luck? Curious to know if others are finding the same thing.

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  1. I had some local strawberries in Windsor and they looked great, but were less tasty than the imported ones. They were also very small in comparison, which is fine. It's a bummer that the imported ones taste better. I'd much rather buy locally grown produce, when it's in season.

    2 Replies
    1. re: 1sweetpea

      I've had good local strawberries, three weeks in a row, from vendors both inside and just outside the north (farmer's) premises on Saturdays at the St. Lawrence Market ($5-6 a basket). And I expect them to get even better as we get deeper into the growing season within the next few weeks. They're small, sweet and not mushy at all. And, if you don't wash the berries till just before you're ready to use them, a basket will last about a week without the berries disintegrating into softness.

      -----
      St. Lawrence Market
      92 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E, CA

      1. re: 1sweetpea

        Actually, for a sweeter berry, you actually want a smaller better. Size does matter in strawberries...smaller is better.

      2. They haven't been great, have they? I feel like proper strawberry season hasn't fully kicked off yet, though, so maybe things will pick up.

        3 Replies
        1. re: ljamunds

          I agree. I usually don't really enjoy them until mid-July. Or I wait until the end of August and pick fraises des bois at my camp.

          SWS

          1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

            The season is over by July. Jut a few everbearing left.

            1. re: jayt90

              No-I beg to differ. Its not necessarily over by mid-July. It depends on the weather patterns and also how "North" you are. Personally, I prefer Northern Ontario berries over Southern Ontario ones. Bigger flavour profile. This board isn't just about Toronto.

              SWS

        2. Yes - my friend brought some in that he bought from the market (not sure which one) and it was a big tart let down as soon as we ate the first one. Hopefully the ones in my garden will taste better.....

          2 Replies
          1. re: pinkprimp

            I'm happy to know that it's not just me selecting duds. We bought 2 weeks in a row at the Danforth Woodbine Farmers Market and not impressed. I had to pitch almost half from yesterday's purchase, and the rest were just bleh.

            I would have thought our weather would have been perfect for berries but maybe it's early yet. I also bought twice from the same person and thought maybe it was just his - but seems not the case.

            I can still recall last year's bounty - they were wonderful. I'm not giving up hope just yet.
            Sigh....maybe next week. Fingers crossed.

            1. re: millygirl

              Of course, there is the possibility that my friend is also buying from the same person and thus the unimpressive results... ;-p I will ask.

              (on a somewhat related note, i hope tomatoes and peaches are still good this growing season because i spend a good portion of the year looking forward to stuffing myself silly with GOOD tomatoes and peaches during the short weeks they are available)

              toes crossed too. please do post if you manage to find good strawberries!!

          2. Anyone remember the little tiny wild strawberries? When I was a kid, I have a vague memory of really tiny little wild strawberries that were just packed with flavor. My memory was jogged when someone on another forum mentioned them. What are these elusive berries, and why aren't they for sale anywhere? They packed such a flavor punch

            Am I hallucinating? Does anyone else remember these?

            11 Replies
            1. re: duckdown

              See my post above. You can also get them at the St. Lawrence market. There was a vendor that I purchased them from last year. I can't recall who though...

              1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                @SWS Darn, I never get to St. Lawrence market, I'm out in Peel.. do you know if they have a different name? What do they sell those tiny berries as? so delicious and sweet

                1. re: duckdown

                  They were not as tiny as the wild strawberries, but they were much smaller than the typical commercial hybrid and mis-shaped. The vendor was from a farm in London-a woman. I'm sorry I cannot recall her name. They were spectacular, the best I've had from Southern Ontario and the closest in flavour to the wild ones up North.

              2. re: duckdown

                They aren't good commercially, too small, too hard to find or pick.
                But you can get your own on hillsides or meadows, right about now.

                1. re: jayt90

                  @jayt90 I wish I knew some hillsides or meadows to find them! All the fields around here are now suburban complexes, friggin Brampton.. So I guess they're not readily available at any Peel or Oakville stores :(

                  1. re: duckdown

                    Why don't you give the Brampton, Caledon or Georgetown farmers' markets a try?

                    1. re: Tatai

                      Never knew if any of them were any good.. and I hear you gotta be up pretty early in the morning too! I sleep till noon :D

                  2. re: jayt90

                    The more rain you get, the worse the strawberries get, and all the rain of late has coincided exactly with the start of strawberry season. I got the first day's crop in Prince Edward County a week-and-a-half ago, just as the storm clouds were moving in. They were incredible—concentrated flavour, juicy, I actually said the words "oh my god" as I had the first one, and ran back for another two pints. I'm fairly certain they're the last good strawberries I'll have this year.

                  3. re: duckdown

                    In early July, I find these little tiny taste sensations for sale near my cottage, which is mid-way between Peterborough and Bancroft. They're usually around for less than two weeks.

                    1. re: 1sweetpea

                      @1sweetpea lucky you!! I remember them from when I was a small child, I desperately want to re-live the moment and find some.. Thats a great way to describe it, taste sensation

                    2. re: duckdown

                      A little treatise on the difference between the wild strawberries and garden strawberries is here:

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7007...

                    3. It's early. Weather, so far, hasn't been maximal. Should be better in a week or two if the temps go up and the rain doesn't drown 'em.

                      1. I never buy local strawberries from a store, I always make a trip out to Whittamores and either pick my own or buy them from their market... it is amazing how much the taste and texture changes even after a day, so I would think local stores would be selling stuff that is at least a few days old.

                        Looks like Whittamores is just starting pick your own on June 12th, so hopefully the best is yet to come!

                        http://crackofdawn.whittamoresfarm.com/

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: LovelyAsia

                          I believe most, if not all of us have been referring to market purchased berries. In fact it's difficult to find local strawberries in the stores near me.

                          1. re: millygirl

                            There were local strawberries at the stores near Logan and Danforth this past week and maybe the week before, but I din't look earlier.

                          2. re: LovelyAsia

                            "Pick your own" rules. Supermarkets like Longo's buy local when they can because they outsell the California Frankenberries. SLM berries are no better than supermarket stuff, usually pricier, and not worth it if you can get outside the GTA. Have a look here:

                            http://www.harvestontario.com/crop.ph...

                            1. re: Kagemusha

                              I get mine at our local farmer's market. Either Woodbine, Riverdale or Withrow. Almost the same, without the drive.

                              1. re: millygirl

                                In season, you can get them at Fruit King or one of the other two fruit & veg vendors around Danforth and Logan. On those days the farmer's market isn't open.

                                1. re: grandgourmand

                                  Thanks grandgourmand. I do sometimes grab last minute things from them. Although the one on the south side I have to say is pretty sketchy. I've often felt their stuff has one foot in the grave so to speak. I don't won't buy from them anymore.

                                  1. re: millygirl

                                    Funny thing is that Fruit King (the one on the south side) is run by the same people as the more westerly of the two on the North Side.

                                    1. re: bytepusher

                                      Interesting, I did not know that!

                                      Come to think of it though, I seem to gravitate towards the eastern one of the two. But either way, neither of them carry what I would call stellar produce.

                                  2. re: grandgourmand

                                    I was going to say the same - in fact those stores are generally a great source of local stuff, cheap. Asparagus is a good bet right now, the strawberries I bought last week were not great however.

                              2. re: LovelyAsia

                                I too am looking forward to Whittamores pick-yer-own opening in 2 days. Last year I went the Monday after the season opened and I picked several buckets of the most delicious berries and turned them into pies.

                                Last week I went to the farm to sample some of their early harvest, and had the same issues as millygirl. They were small and tart. I made a rhubarb/mint/strawb compote and the berry flavour was good as long as sugar was added. Perhaps these are an early blooming variety. I find a huge difference in varietals, depending on when you pick, the quality can be amazing, or not so great. When I picked at the end of the season last year the berries were poor.

                                Fiesta Farms and Sobeys have ON strawbs, but I'm holding out for pick-yer-own.

                                Today at Riverdale Farm we spotted wild strawberries in the farm house garden. My son enjoyed looking for them.

                                -----
                                Fiesta Farms
                                200 Christie St, Toronto, ON M6G, CA

                              3. My first pint last week were the best Canadian strawberries I've had in years. My 2nd and 3rd pint purchased this past Tuesday weren't quite as good, but they were still better than average, and still tasted better than any Californian or Floridian strawberries I've eaten.

                                I think it depends on how rainy and/or sunny it's been each week, and the berries that get more sunshine taste sweeter. All my strawberries have been from the Simcoe or London area. Maybe berry farms in SW Ontario are getting better weather and/or more heat units than GTA strawberries this year.

                                I did notice a huge difference in quality between the local strawberries sold at No Frills for $2.88 a pint, and the local strawberries sold at my favourite produce stand at the London's Covent Garden Market for $4.50 a pint. Certainly worth the extra $ to buy them at the Market.

                                1. The berries I've had from SLM have been decent. Not the best of the season at all but still pretty sweet and full of berry flavour. In a few weeks they should be great.

                                  WON
                                  http://whatsonmyplate.net

                                  1. maybe i'm just getting old, but they never seem as good as they were 35 years ago when i picked them in southern ontario. but then we picked them when they were at their absolute peak, vine ripened. In my opinion, the best ones are almost too fragile to put in a carton, and therfore, you're nevner going to taste the best unless you pick them at their peak right off the plant.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Bernhardt

                                      Yes, absolutely agree! When they are at their peak, you must pick them and pop them into your mouth immediately. They are still as good as they were 35 years ago...you just have to know where to look.

                                    2. I will travel any distance to any farmers market as long as there is parking, just for a box of delicious beautiful tiny wild strawberries

                                      Sometimes sold as Alpine Strawberries, Fraises des bois, or Fraises des champs in QC

                                      If anyone spots these little beauties anywhere within a 1 hour drive, I will do it. I see some amazing recipes for confitures and jams, not to mention the sheer joy of eating them straight

                                      1. Agreed. I tried one at the Highland Farms on Hurontario in Mississauga. Only marginally better than the imported ones. If at all.

                                        On the other other hand walking through HF's apple aisle full of Ontario apples was like walking though an apple orchard. I forgot what apples were supposed to smell like. Wow. But that's another thread...

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: magic

                                          Highland Farms actually has a large cattle farm, and apple orchards, at Lake Ridge Rd and Hwy 2, Ajax. They sell their own apples, among others, but easy to spot.

                                          -----
                                          Highland Farms
                                          850 Ellesmere Rd, Toronto, ON M1P, CA

                                          1. re: magic

                                            People need to chill on this. It's early. Weather's been iffy. They'll get here with some reasonable heat and no rain. Anything sold over the next 48hrs, thanks to the rain, will go mouldy if not eaten soon after purchase. If you can get out of the GTA, check the list I posted above.

                                            1. re: Kagemusha

                                              Kagemusha is right.

                                              To be honest it has been a tricky year. I have a rather decent sized strawberry patch in my front yard (I am in Toronto) and all of the hot dry weather followed by lots of rain has made things somewhat complicated in terms of strawberries.

                                              I am finding that the berries overall are HUGE but perhaps not as sweet as have been some years. Plus with the rain they need to be picked sooner than later since they are really wanting to rot. This is not to say that they aren't still excellent but perhaps not as sweet as some may prefer. Enjoy the berries while they are here though.

                                              The best strawberries I have found to buy have been from the one vendor outside at the North Market at the St. Lawrence Market just south of Thames River Melons. His stuff is always excellent quality and I don't find that he hides any questionable berries in his flats.

                                              -----
                                              St. Lawrence Market
                                              92 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E, CA

                                              1. re: Otonabee

                                                I bought some delicious Ontario strawberries yesterday at Loblaws. Some were a little over ripe, had to toss them but otherwise yummy!

                                          2. I bought some wonderfully full-flavoured, sweet small strawberries yesterday from one of the vendors at the Georgetown farmers market. Better than I've had in a few years.