I'm a huge fan of our super-tasty Oregon strawberries, which put the California varieties (at least the ones shipped up our way) to shame, taste and appearance-wise.
This week I started buying strawberries from a farmer's stand on Salem's south Liberty Road, in the parking lot by the Salem Heights Hall. When I brought them home, my wife asked "Are they organic?"
"No," I told her. "But they're local." A mild husband/wife argument ensued.
I feel that we need to support local farmers, even if what they grow is non-organic. Otherwise we'll get more and more fruits and vegetables trucked in from far away, increasing Oregon's carbon footprint and decreasing our taste buds' pleasure.
My wife puts a lot more emphasis on eating organic. She's appropriately wary of pesticides, and conventional strawberries are #3 on EWG's "Dirty Dozen" (a 2011 shopper's guide to pesticides in produce). EWG's advice is to buy organic strawberries.
Well, for some reason it's hard to find local organic strawberries. And when they're available, the price is high -- especially compared to what Fred Meyer has been selling organic California strawberries for (two pounds for $6, or even $4, if I recall correctly).
So Laurel is eating comparatively tasteless organic strawberries trucked in from California, while I've been feasting on sweet, juicy local berries.
Yesterday, when I stopped by the farmer's stand to buy another 1/4 flat for $7, I asked how much pesticide was used in growing the strawberries. Even though I've been buying stuff at this stand for many years, I'd never asked that question before.
A woman told me, "They're only sprayed in the flowering stage. After that, no pesticides are used." That was reassuring. For me, at least. My wife continues to stick with her organic California strawberries.
The local strawberry seller also said that she's been involved with growing Oregon berries for more than fifty years, starting when she was a child and followed the "pick one, eat one" rule.
That was how I did it also, when I frequented U-pick fields soon after I moved to Oregon from California in 1971 and felt like I'd made it to Strawberry Heaven. I ate them without any washing; but back then we also drove cars without shoulder belts or air bags.
The woman told me that a lot more pesticides were used on strawberries in the old not-so-environmentally-aware days. Given how many pounds of Oregon strawberries I've eaten during the forty years I've lived here, this struck me as both present-day good news and historic bad news.
Bottom line for me: I love our local berries -- raspberries, marionberries, blackberries, blueberries, and especially strawberries. When I can buy them organic at a non-exorbitant cost, that's what I'll do.
Otherwise, I'll happily keep on eating local non-organic strawberries. They're one of the healthiest foods, so hopefully the antioxidant and other benefits will outweigh the detrimental effects of any pesticide residue.
(I've been blogging about Oregon strawberries since 2003, soon after I started HinesSight. See "Strawberries say so much," "As Oregon strawberries go, so the state," and "Help me save Oregon strawberries.")