My family often gets together this time of year to go strawberry picking. Dad was out of town last weekend, and we missed the start of the season waiting for his return. However, from conversations with growers during my frequent trips to the farmers markets, I knew that berries would still be available for the picking this weekend. Since the start of the local strawberry season, I have purchased four quarts from the two farmers markets I frequent, from three separate vendors.
The one farmer who got my repeat business uses no sprays. Her berries are not organic, as she uses conventional fertilizers, but she applies no herbicides or pesticides. And since there are no organic strawberries available for pick your own in my county, I suggested to my folks this morning that we try picking at the No Spray Farm. [There is an organic farm one county over, but I knew I'd never convince my folks to drive 40 miles--they are trying to be green, too.] They agreed it was worth investigating.
Picking at the No Spray Farm was a completely different experience from the larger, more traditional farms we have gone to in past years. The photo below, showing my family hard at work, was shot in the strawberry field. There were no obvious rows, rather the berries were scattered haphazardly amongst the towering weeds. Wildflowers were blooming and butterflies were flitting. Idyllic as it sounds, it was hard work. The berries were small, and much harder to find than in a typical field with tidy rows.
Furthermore, the vast majority of the fruit was ripe, but had not developed fully, with a rock-hard cluster of seeds on the bottom that are impossible to chew, and dramatically slow down the post-picking cleaning and chopping. [The seed pockets are so hard that attempting to cut through them often crushes the entire berry.] I simply avoided picking those berries, but it took a long time to get my two quarts. My family was not so patient, picking the seedy berries and whining about the time it took to find them. Step-mom announced she wants to go back to the sprayed fields next year.
The strawberry shortcake we made back at the parental house tasted just as good as any I've had from traditionally grown berries. In fact, to my tastes, it was a little sweeter simply from the knowledge that no pesticides or herbicides were used. Unfortunately, to the rest of my family, the no spray experiment was a big failure.