By Kelly Smith Trimble
Today, I harvested my first handful of strawberries for the season. My Sequoia strawberry plants overwintered in the garden and are now producing lots of berries from both the mother plants and the daughters that popped up from runners.
I love strawberries but have a deficiency of patience when it comes to waiting for the first berries from the garden, so I’d already bought some strawberries at the grocery. Now I have a pack of store-bought strawberries in the fridge and a few homegrown strawberries in my hand.
What to do? Pit them against each other in a one-on-one food competition, of course. This is America.
Store-bought v. Homegrown
As you can see from my photo here, the homegrown strawberry doesn’t have a chance in the size competition. It looks like just a puny little thing in the shadow of that big honking store-bought berry. Makes me think about all those stories of professional athletes and their performance enhancing drugs, in fact. I know that my homegrown strawberries have received no inputs other than fresh water, sun, and a little naturally-based plant food every now and again. The store-bought berry? Since I didn’t grow it, I can’t be sure.
To be fair to my strawberry plants, they are producing a few good-sized berries that could compete one-on-one in the size competition with the store-bought ones. Those berries just aren’t ripe yet. But it’s important to realize that not all homegrown strawberries (or tomatoes or peppers or squash…) will be the same size or shape. Your plants will produce some small babies and some big mommas, too. They’ll produce some iconic shaped fruit, and some wonky ones, too.
Now for the taste competition. I take a bite of each. For my homegrown berry, it’s a small bite, to be sure, but it’s the best bite by far. This is a bite with all the complexity of a sip of fine wine. A burst of sweetness at first, then a hit of tanginess. Overall, it’s juicy, fresh (duh, I just picked it), and tender. Fragile, in fact.
The store-bought berry is good, don’t get me wrong. If I’d never tasted a homegrown strawberry, I wouldn’t know any different. I’d think the slight sweetness and flesh on the dry, tough side (good for slicing) was all a strawberry had to offer.
As I am the one and only judge in this competition, I decide to weigh points for taste much heavier than points for size.
The takeaway from this fierce food competition? When plants produce naturally, their fruits aren’t perfectly sized for shipping in trucks, perfectly shaped for uniformity on the stock shelves, or perfectly tough to stand up to days in a grocery store. Instead, it’s their taste that’s perfect. That’s something to cheer about!