It is strawberry harvest time at Nev-R-Dun Farm. After years of “fiddling” with this delectable crop, I can safely say that we are actually “harvesting” strawberries, and certified organic at that! What? Certified organic strawberries? Is that possible? …Of course it is, but it is not as easy as one may suspect… or even told it is… but I digress. Nonetheless, here are some pictures of the harvest. The closest strawberry is obviously not ripe, but the one hiding just behind it is!
This picture a little more accurately reveals how the strawberries ripen. There are hordes of non-ripe berries, with the ripe ones hanging in the midst of them. Strawberry picking, aka the harvest, is a search mission, and it takes quite a bit of time to harvest those delectable berries. It is especially grueling when the ninety degree humid mid-Maryland summer descends upon that harvest! However, as the pictures reveal, the strawberries are not deformed or rotten in any way, and that is actually the reason for strawberries to be the focus of this Tales of Idyllia entry.
Many, many years ago, I looked into growing strawberries. This was over a decade ago when I had very little farming experience to speak of. One aspect of farming I had heard repeatedly that no one growing organically even tried was fruit. So, due to my indoctrinated stubborn nature, I thought I would investigate why that was so. (A small aside here: organic berry production is quite different than tree fruit, and there are many organic growers who produce berries. I found this out a bit later.)
Most of my searches those days were via the internet. I am fairly certain Google did not exist back then, so “searching” was more of a crap shoot of sorts. Anyway, I was searching for not only a viable source, but also the “how” involved. Again, I was very naïve at that point in the farming experience arena. Eventually, I was led to some place in Canada. I called up the company, the name of which I am not sure I even learned, and while the call was answered quite quickly, the answer to my search for organic strawberries was also answered quite quickly. “No such thing” was the answer. “Really?” was my flabbergasted reply. And then the knowledgeable person quickly relayed how the lygus lineolaris damaged the strawberries to such an extent that “organic”, that is, not spraying chemical pesticides renders those strawberry crops… I guess… impossible to ripen without serious damage.
I remember being struck by that name, lygus lineolaris. Whenever something is called by a Latin name, it sounds impressive. For example, Tyrannus tyrannus sounds much more impressive than the common name used for the Eastern king bird… one of my favorite birds, but I digress. Anyway, the gentleman that talked to me over the phone seemed so knowledgeable about strawberries and how to grow them that the calling of what he deemed their main pest by the Latin name, lygus lineolaris, I completely bought his wisdom… almost… Actually, I did not buy it at all, but again, that is me…
Lygus lineolaris is commonly known as the tarnished plant bug. I am quite familiar with that pest, but I have not been overwhelmed by the damage it can cause. From my experience growing organically, that is, without the use of chemical pesticides, those bugs do damage, but nothing that is extraordinary. The damage they incur to strawberries leads to part of the strawberry not ripening. There will be a portion of the strawberry that is still green and stunted while the rest of the strawberry ripens as usual. This was the pest that the knowledgeable gent from Canada stated was the reason that there was no such thing as “organic” strawberries.
That was over a decade ago. Again, I did not heed that bit of information, and proceeded to grow strawberries regardless. The point for me was that before chemicals entered the scene, there were indeed strawberries… for hundreds of years… for thousands… And what I have discovered since then has revealed, at least to me, that the notion of chemicals being “needed” in strawberry production is nonsense.
One of the aspects of conventional farming, that is chemical farming, that I do not accept, in fact, I find ridiculous, is that by applying chemical pesticides/herbicides/fungicides, etc. a better crop results. This is not exclusive to strawberries by any means, but since that is the topic at hand I will continue with it. I guess, in theory, the use of chemicals can greatly increase the yield of a strawberry harvest. Again, this is nonsense. In my own organically grown strawberries there has been only a minimal amount of damage, most of which has been caused by small furry creatures rather than the lygus lineolaris, or for that matter, the other myriad of pests that can affect the ripening of a strawberry. There is an element of fear that is involved in strawberry growing that the conventional (chemical) approach feeds upon that is not scientific in the least. “If you do not spray, you will get no strawberries.” That is simply not the case… and yet they spray and spray the chemicals on this poor, and absolutely delicious fruit ad nauseum!
In order to continue on the informational side of this entry, the strawberries in question here are June-bearing strawberries. In order to keep this entry from being too long, I will simply state that most of these strawberries that are eventually found in supermarkets are harvested before they are ripe and shipped vast distances while using certain gases to artificially make those strawberries appear “ripe”. The result is that there is no flavor, aka. Health benefit. The reason for that approach is strictly monetary. It appears that it is better for the consumer to be swindled into thinking an unripe strawberry is as good if not better than an actual ripe strawberry.
There is a list that is put out every year called the “dirty dozen”, which lists the 12 vegetable/fruit crops that have the most chemical residue on them. Most of those crops are fruit, and strawberries always rank rather highly on that list. This year they are listed at number 6. Keep in mind, that that list is on the “higher” level of chemicals found in the plant’s tissues. As an organic farmer, I can safely state that my strawberries have no chemicals whatsoever in those tissues. And my strawberries are harvested ripe and ready to eat!
What has truly happened through the conventional/chemical approach to strawberry production is an absolute swindle. They have managed to turn one of the most delicious fruits into a chemically laced, tasteless product that is proudly displayed as though it were the best thing ever! And they do this with all kinds of vegetables and fruits. But as I have said before, the flavor will tell you if you are eating something good for you. If it does not taste like anything, chances are it is not doing anything for you, health-wise that is. When my strawberries are eaten the flavor is absolutely amazing! And it should be, because the crops were grown as they should be and harvested when they should be… without the use of ANY chemicals.
One last thing, there was a posting I would like to share that compares organic strawberry production to conventional. As I have stated in this entry, it is ridiculous to me how strawberries have come to be saturated by chemicals in the conventional approach. Just let the plants grow as they should! In my mind, that is not a “deep” concept… and yet it is in the conventional mindset.