"You give them something to eat" – Jesus of Nazareth
Thursday, June 21
Today is the official first day of summer, and nothing tastes like early summer in WNY more than a fresh strawberry! At 5 Loaves Farm we have a number of strawberry varieties that are thriving this year, and each variety tastes a bit different. What we can learn from these tastes is a valuable lesson about the current state of agriculture.
We grow two main types of strawberry varieties; June-bearing, and ever-bearing. June-bearing varieties are the classic varieties that have been grown in WNY for centuries. The earliest of these varieties, like Early-Glo and Jewel are the sweetest, while some of the late June berries, like Honeoye are the plumpest and juiciest.
The fruiting of strawberry plants is triggered by day-length, so to provide a more consistent supply of strawberries in our supermarkets, plant breeders have developed ever-bearing varieties, or what are called “day-neutral” strawberries. These plants are less dependent on day length to produce fruit and will produce over a longer season, bearing berries even into the fall.
However, we have discovered after growing these varieties for the past three years, that there is a noticeable difference in taste between the June-bearing and ever-bearing strawberries. Like most of the plant breeding of our fruits and vegetables, these newer varieties reveal how plant breeding has focused on the demands of the supermarket (consistency of size, shape, & availability) rather than on taste. The red delicious apple is another great example. Today there isn’t much deliciousness left in a red delicious, as it’s been bred for it’s classic apple shape rather than for flavor.
Earlier this spring, 5 Loaves Farm had some of it’s salad greens returned by a local grocer because they did not meet the appearance standards for their supermarket (our truly organic arugula had some flea beetle holes in it because we don’t use poisons – even organic poisons on our produce). The next day, greens from the same batch were praised by a local chef because of their quality, and he increased the amount he was ordering from the farm.
Fortunately within the current local food movement more and more people are learning to favor flavor over appearance. We are proud to be partnering with chefs, those at our farmer’s market stand, and those in our Community Supported Agriculture program to be bringing back the value of flavor and nutritional value to our food!
So as you enjoy the taste of early summer this year – those great tasting local June-bearing strawberries, also know that you are helping restore the value of flavor in our food system!