Friday, October 3, 2014

the applesauce is in the pot--but where are the strawberries?

The applesauce is in the pot cooking down. I'll can it later, and then, I just might put the canner up for the season. But you never know.

It's getting to be that time of year - when the fall crops come in and the frenzy of canning and freezing food goes out. You gotta love winter squash and root vegetables. All you have to do to preserve them is put them in a cupboard!

Up until now, we have been busy. My food dryer whirs through the night full of peppers, garlic and onions. My canner bubbles, processing all kinds of stuff: salsa, tomatoes, peaches, pears and now applesauce. My freezer is filling up with chard, collards, carrots and chickens.

But something is missing.

Every year I am lucky to get organic strawberries from a local farmer. I wrote more about that, and why I insist on eating organic strawberries here several years ago, but the gist of it is: strawberries suck the pesticides up inside of themselves. You can't wash or peel the nastiness off. While strawberries are one of the worst fruits to eat if they aren't organic, the organic ones can be nearly impossible to find locally.

I knew I was lucky to have an organic strawberry connection. I even protected it--wary of sharing the information with too many people. Every year, I bought them in bulk in May. For 2-3 weeks we'd binge on berries. I'd make shortcake every night, put up jam for the year, and stuff bags of whole ones into the freezer for winter shakes. Then we'd wait for them to return the next year. By the end of those weeks, I felt I couldn't look at another berry.

I can't imagine that feeling now.

This year, a hailstorm destroyed "my" strawberry crop just days before the harvest. All of those beautiful berries: gone.

At first I felt so bad for the farmer, I didn't think about what this meant for me. But soon, the reality sunk in. No strawerries!

I asked around at markets and couldn't find anyone with organic berries. No surprise. Then a new vendor appeared at one of my markets. He said he'd have organic berries all summer. Woohoo!

Except he didn't. Not really, anyway. He had berries: raspberries, blueberries, lots of elderberries (I have no idea what to do with those!), and pints of blackberries. Occasionally he showed up with a pint or two of strawberries.

To get them, you had to wait like a cat outside a mouse hole and pounce on them the minute the market bell rang. It was embarrassing.

Once I got enough to make jam.

After that, I got nothing.

Just a few booths down , my regular fruit vendor offered mountains of strawberries. They looked beautiful. I like these farmers and buy all of my other fruit from them (none of it organic). But strawberries are something I've committed to eating without pesticides. I don't want to contribute to the seepage of methyl bromide into our environment.

Still, each week those berries tempted me. Denial is such an easy thing. It's so easy to stick your head in the sand and go with the crowd. Everyone else is eating strawberries. Why shouldn't we? It can't be that bad, right? Or better, just pretend you don't know anything about it. Hope the farmer didn't use THAT stuff on THESE berries. Right?

I walked through the market each week never sure if this would be the day when I'd give in.

I suppose it's easy to commit to a principle when the committing only asks you to buy in bulk. It's another thing when it means going without. As the summer has progressed, I think I believed my organic berry vendor would come through with some magical last-minute strawberriness.

But he did not.

Now, the season is over. The freezer is full (of other stuff), and we are committed. It will be the year without a strawberry.