Thursday, May 13, 2010

Attack of the Killer Strawberries

You know, as much as I respect and admire and have stuck up for Alice Waters, I'm not exactly what you'd call dogmatic when it comes to buying our edibles only from local "producers." After all, if you wanna use Spanish olive oil, or Greek feta cheese, or French mustard, or Italian prosciutto or any of a million other delicious products, you're basically throwing the whole locavore schtick under the bus, aren't you?

Oh sure, in season I go crazy...coming home from the farmer's market with more locally grown and produced stuff than 2 people could possibly eat (even if one of them is Significant Eater), before my next shopping binge. But there's also stuff we want to eat when it's not in season locally, and strawberries happen to be one of those things.

Trust me, I get strawberries locally when they're available at the farmer's market...tri-star berries are the berries which get everyone excited - and any menu worth it's fleur-de-sel will have a tri-star berry dessert on it come strawberry season in these parts. Creative chefs will probably even have some on their non-dessert menus, and I can hardly wait.

I can find some pretty tasty berries from my local guy-on-the-corner-with-fruit stand, when they first come in season and are shipped up from Florida. I don't know what variety they are, but they're usually very sweet, smell great and actually taste like strawberries. A few weeks later they're not as good, but still, we like strawberries and they make a decent sorbet (with a little kick from Framboise or Kirsch or something similar). Oh, and they're coming in from Mexico and California instead of Florida, and maybe that has something to do with it.

Just the other day, I happened to see that corner-guy had some nice looking California berries at his stand - they smelled good too, which sometimes can be an indicator of how they might taste...but not always. So I took some home and now I'm wondering what the hell they grow these things in - because I've never seen berries that look like this...

In this picture, they don't look so freakish - they look pretty good, as a matter of fact. But, they're huge - on the scale these two berries weigh almost 5 ounces! Take a look at them next to a good size clove of garlic...

That probably doesn't worry you so's this, though, next to a medium size onion...

Or near a couple of fingerling potatoes...

Yes, they're bigger than the potatoes. They even dwarf the potatoes...but maybe that's because the potatoes are grown locally? (By the way, the potatoes were delicious cooked in duck fat, but that's another blog).

Anyway, don't you wonder what they're using in that soil out in California when you get a strawberry that big? Alice I'm sure does - oh, face it - I'm sure she'd never serve berries like those in her restaurants.

The upshot: they didn't taste half bad once you've trimmed away the core and all the other cottony weirdness that's inside. For the rest of the season, though, I think I'll wait for the tri-stars.


  1. Hi Mitch,

    It's amazing how much improved the imported California strawberries (to Canada) have become in the last couple of years!!! Darienne

  2. Mitch, I must say I have gotten very spoiled. We have strawberries all year at the market (Santa Barbara), although they are not as good during the winter. What is amazing is all the different varieties...who know? Anyway, this week I bought Chandlers...awesome