Why We’re Not Sweet on Strawberries for Valentine’s Day

When you think of a Valentine’s Day treat, do chocolate covered strawberries come to mind? There is something about the combination of bittersweet chocolate and the saccharine acidity of strawberries that make them an undeniable combination. In North America, outside of California where strawberries grow nearly year round, the peak harvest time for strawberries is May-July.

There are three main types of strawberries: June-bearing, ever-bearing and day-neutral. Some produce a large quantity of fruit all at once, others will fruit multiple times throughout the year but none here in the High Desert fruit in winter! Strawberries need lots of sun, and temperatures of around 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Given this region experiences late frosts well into April and sudden bouts of extreme heat, strawberries grown outdoors in Central Oregon often don’t ripen until mid-summer. So why the connection to this holiday? 

Well, strawberries along with chocolate have long been commonly considered to be an aphrodisiac which makes them a seemingly desirable treat to market around Valentine’s Day. Plus, in Ancient Rome, the strawberry was a symbol of Venus, goddess of love. Because of its exterior “seeds” (not true seeds, but ovaries, called achenes) the strawberry has also long been held as a symbol of fertility across countless cultures. How then do we integrate the traditions or relationships we’ve developed with food throughout our lives with the knowledge we are gaining as we continue to become more aware of the environmental costs our foods have? Simply put, we learn to find new traditions and relationships. We believe that our food connects us and that there are no limitations to what those connections look like.

Strawberries purchased in Central Oregon over the winter are imported, most likely from Mexico and/or South America. When we take into account the cost and journey of that strawberry from harvest to plate suddenly the allure of this holiday favorite begins to dwindle. 

Fresh, local fruit tastes so very good because you get the opportunity to consume it at its peak ripeness, often within days of being harvested. Here at HDFFA, we’d rather wait until summer for our fill! With an array of sweet treats offered here within our High Desert Community of food producers and crafters, we would rather our dollars be funneled back into the local economy that enables these very producers to continue to do what they love. 

Check out our Get A Taste website for our online directory of local businesses and farms/ranchers to support this holiday. With offerings from dinner kits from F5 Smokehouse to allergen friendly baked goods at Blissful Spoon to flower CSAs from Stumpmunk & Fibonacci Farms you are sure to find something to celebrate yourself and/or your loved ones this Valentine’s Day.

For more information on growing strawberries in Central Oregon: Strawberry Cultivars for Western Oregon and Washington, OSU Extension 2014

Image courtesy: Amanda LongBend Farmers Market

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