If you love me, give me strawberries:

I’ve had a long standing love affair with strawberries. As a small child I once ate an entire mixing bowl full of strawberries that my mom had prepared for a cake. I later broke out in hives, but like all obsessive lovers, a little bump in the road didn’t stop me from coming back for more. For years the only flavor of ice cream I ate was “strawberry” and my favorite person in the world was my grandmother, who made a tantalizing batch of strawberry jam every summer.

My grandmother will be 89 this summer and she retired from the strawberry jam business a few years back. Since that time I have been left sampling every jam (organic) that I can find. There are an amazing number of organic and biologique jams to be found, but unfortunately most of them hail from far far away, and not one compares in flavor to my grandmother’s jam.

The only solution that I have come up with is to go into the jam business myself. And so, this Valentines Day, instead of flowers, my husband will be giving me 20 Organic Strawberry Plants, to be delivered from Seeds of Change after April 1st. I will add these to the 20 plants I started last summer and hopefully, sometime towards mid June, I will be in strawberry heaven.

You may be wondering why I am going to the effort of raising my own strawberries, when even organic berries can now be bought year round at the grocery store? Unless the birds get them first, homegrown berries are simply sweeter and taste better. Grocery store berries are not local, being trucked in primarily from California, but also coming in from Mexico, Central and South America. And, even organic grocery store berries tend to be bland and watery. According to the Western Farm Press, due to a favorable California climate, the US is actually the largest exporter of strawberries to the world market. So, for now, at least you don’t have to worry about your strawberries being imported from China.

Regardless of where they come from, I eat only organic strawberries and recommend the same to you. Why organic? Multiple studies have shown that organic strawberries have higher levels of beneficial antioxidants than conventionally grown berries. Recent studies in fact show that antioxidants are higher in organic crops, because they are part of the plants’ natural defense system. When pesticides are used to keep away bugs, the plants no longer need to defend themselves and the production of healthy antioxidants goes down.

So, conventional strawberry crops are pesticide intensive and strawberries are more likely than many fruits to absorb and maintain pesticide residue after application. From my point of view, if the consumption of conventional strawberries means that I get an over sized, but bland piece of fruit, which is tainted by pesticides, but without the benefit of healthy antioxidants. Why bother? My strawberries will of course be organic, and if you do buy strawberries, make sure to get the organic variety.