So you think to yourself that the flush of fresh, seasonal strawberries should be on shelves and head down to your local supermarket to buy a few pints while they are slightly less expensive. Large red berries greet you, inviting you to have a bite and so you are quite pleased as you pay the woman at checkout.
You take them home, open the packet to wash them off and one accidentally falls out. A total loss? Nope, it bounces a few times and rolls to the side unharmed. Did you see that or were you just imagining it? Since when do strawberries bounce? Leaning down to pick it up again, you inspect the fruit. Unharmed aside from a very slight scuff where the seeds got pressed into the fruit from the impact.
No, it wasn’t a fluke. Chances are that if you buy strawberries in a supermarket, you are buying Elsanta variety. Bred solely for the ability to produce large red berries that can withstand 20,000 miles of shipping and rough handling without losing that beautiful appearance. So how do they taste? A little sweet, a little tart. The texture? Slightly hard and watery at the same time somehow.
Between the nature of the supermarket friendly fruit and the pressure on growers to make the prices lower, these fruits barely resemble the true nature of a perfect strawberry. Bred with taste last on the list of considerations and pushed hard to be larger by the infusion of too much water prior to harvest, the flavor that should be sweet and the texture that should be pleasantly soft and juicy are noticeably absent.
Want something else? Good luck. Supermarkets insist on this variety most of the time. If you read the package, it probably says Elsanta or says nothing at all, which means Elsanta. If you aren’t growing them yourself, then your best bet for enjoyable strawberries comes in one of two forms. First, you can attempt to locate them at a farmer’s market and simply ask what variety they are growing. Many will allow you to sample a berry before buying. Also there still exist a few pick-your-own farms that grow strawberries. These places don’t have to worry about the shipping quality of the fruit, so instead focus on flavor as a higher priority in the production.
This is just one item out of thousands in a grocery. Think about how limited the variety typically is as you walk down the produce section. Think of how things really taste. Entire generations have never had good non-supermarket foods at this point. It is possible you have never even experienced a good ripe strawberry or bitten into an apple fresh off of a tree that didn’t come from an intensive farming situation. Go out of your way to find some of these old fashioned produce. Taste side by side. If you can figure a way to do it blind, do so. You’ll likely be surprised at the vast difference.