Seasonal Spotlight: Strawberries
You know the question: "If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?" My answer has always been and will always be STRAWBERRIES! I adore strawberries. They are by far my most favorite food. And guess what? They are back baby! Beautifully sweet, a little tart, juicy and stunningly crimson.
Growing up, my hometown had a strawberry festival the first weekend in June right when school ended and the full of summer and all of its possibilities were open! Strawberry pie, strawberry pizza, strawberry donuts (my all time favorite), strawberries by the pint, and strawberry lemon shake-ups. And the fun continued all the way till the end of summer at home. We picked our own berries in the fields, and would bring home bushels of these juicy red jewels; I usually brought home a stomach ache from all the berries I ate! (one for the basket...oops, no, that one looks too good; one for me. One for the basket, whoa this one is huge; so, one for me again).
Once home, the strawberries were dumped, one basket after another, into an ice bath in the sink and hulled; mostly for straight eating. And when the nights started to cool off, dessert was fresh picked strawberries juiced with a little sugar and served over dessert shells; this was the Ohio version of strawberry shortcake.
These are very fond memories that always surface when strawberries come back in season, and I find myself with several pints of local berries every week fresh from the market ready to put into recipes. Sometimes I put them into desserts (I'm still searching for the "perfect" strawberry cake - Sprinkles Cupcakes makes an amazing strawberry cupcake that isn't vegan (boo!) and I just can't seem to get quite right at home). Mostly, I put the berries in smoothies, quick compotes, lemonade, salads, and of course, they are still devoured by the handful raw and fresh.
Strawberry Super Powers:
Health: Strawberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C (supporting immune and skin health) and Manganese along with being very rich in antioxidants which may have benefits for blood sugar control and heart health. This fruit also has folate (vitamin B9) which is important to tissue growth and cell function (fundamental for both pregnant women and older adults), and potassium (which helps regulate blood pressure). Info derived from healthline.com.
Strawberries have a relatively low water footprint, low carbon footprint (production does not cause excess CO2), and their production is relatively sustainable with no known significant impacts from crop fields supporting strawberry growth for detriment to air, water, soils or subsurface (assuming organic production here with no pesticide, herbicide, or insecticide use). Overall, my favorite fruit is not "bad" for the environment (whew!).
Strawberries are being significantly affected by climate change; especially in California. Agronomy researchers at the University of California (results published in Agronomy Today 2019) found that temperature changes of just a few degrees vastly modifies the yield of strawberry production (along with other closely related foods like peaches and cherries whose seasonality can be relatively short). According to NOAA.org, 2020 was the second-warmest year on record and surface temperature (land and ocean) was 1.76 degrees F warmer than the twentieth-century average. Earth's temperature has risen 0.14 degrees F per decade since 1800, and the rate of warming over the past 40 years is more than twice that at 0.32 degrees F per decade. So, a warming planet is evidenced in the science, and agronomy research shows that those changes can and will affect the yield (how much can be produced and the quality of the production) of my favorite fruit.
Less than half a degree every 10 years of rising temperature doesn't sound like much, but think about it this way: in 30 years when my kids are in their mid-thirties, I hope they still can have the nostalgia and good feelings of their favorite fruits (like strawberries are for me). I hope that strawberries are still available and that they can share them with their kids. As always, if we choose to act now and change our habits to just make better choices and think about how climate change is affecting our present and future, we have the power to help future generations preserve and foster the wonderful foods of this Earth.
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie.