(I know, I know. I haven’t written in six months AND I renamed the blog. There could and probably should be a long, long post about why, but it is easier to just restart. :))
If you are at all concerned with the real or organic foods movement, you probably know that strawberries are among those foods most accused of being laden with toxic and harmful pesticides. You have also probably realized that organic strawberries are expensive, and organic U-pick strawberry farms are pretty hard to locate.
In my usual poorganic way, I would like to waylay some of your fears so that you can confidently pick and consume affordable strawberries without paying an arm and a leg.
This spring, I’m working at Hall Family Farm, which is a U-Pick strawberry farm in the Ballantyne area of Charlotte, North Carolina. This job has given me the opportunity to ask the farmer, Lara Hall, some great questions about the supposed “dirty dozen” item: STRAWBERRIES.
Be sure to ask these questions of your own farmer because the answers may vary depending on where you go. Her answers don’t necessarily apply to ALL conventional strawberries or U-pick locations.
Q: Do you spray the strawberries with pesticides?
A: Yes. Before they berry, we spray them with a synthetic pesticide to kill spider mite eggs. This is done weeks before the plants actually have berries.
Q: Do you spray them with pesticides after they fruit?
A: No. There are no pesticides sprayed on the berries. We only put fungicide on them to reduce the growth of mold, especially during a wet season like we’ve had.
Q: Is the fungicide you put on the berries toxic to consume?
Q: Why is the fungicide needed? Do the plants mold?
A: When people step across the black plastic along the rows, the roots of the plants can become damaged, enabling the molds and fungi to grow. That’s why we encourage people not to step over the rows. PLEASE keep your children from crossing the rows.
Q: What about natural methods of pest prevention?
A. We do buy and bring in ladybugs to eat other pests. Organic farms actually use pesticides too; they are just derived from natural sources. Actually, nicotine and arsenic are both approved organic pesticides.
A: Yes. It’s true. Nicotine is a common organic pesticide.
Q: Why do you say that the berries need to be washed before they can be eaten if there are no pesticides on them?
A: Because they could have pollen, dirt, or bird poop on them. We assume you don’t want to eat those things.
Q: Is it too late for strawberries this year?
A: No. We are having a later season due to a cold, wet spring, so there is still plenty of time to come pick berries.
Q: Do you have any tips for picking the best berries?
A: While berries redden off the vine, the don’t ripen in terms of sweetness. Choose red, slightly shiny berries with no white tips.
Q: How do I prevent my berries from getting overripe after picking?
A: Never leave berries in a hot car or they will get mushy. Don’t pre-wash berries. Wash them just prior to eating. If you want to freeze them, wash them, put them in a single layer tray and freeze singly before transferring to a zippered bag.
Isn’t that exciting!? Strawberries are back on the menu at the Ryder house. I hope you’ll come out to Hall Family Farm and pick some delicious, sweet, and affordable strawberries at only $2.19 a lb. If I’m behind the cash register, I hope you’ll introduce yourself.
If you don’t live in my area, share in the comments your favorite farm to pick strawberries.