Lucky Dip – Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

They’re out there… they’re everywhere. You (hopefully) can’t miss fabulous local strawberries; eat them, they’re super good for you. [Toronto Sun] [Sweet Potato Chronicles] [Canadian Living: The Food Blog]

People are still squicked by the idea of artificial meat, but holy cow (heh), think of how great it would be for the environment. [The Guardian]

Especially when you consider how industrial farming is making everybody (humans and animals) sick. [The Daily Mail]

But – could the US Senate be ready to pass a bill banning anti-biotics in animal feed?!! [Food Safety News]

Fellow fatties, be forwarned, obesity is the last socially acceptable form of appearance-based discrimination, and with a push to cut back on “obesity-related” health care costs (most of which, as I rant about regularly, cannot be directly linked to obesity at all), that’s probably not going to change any time soon. [Globe and Mail]

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Market Mondays – Strawberries

The time is upon us. If you’re like me, you’ve walked past time huge, hard, tasteless red supermarket strawberries all winter in anticipation of June and Ontario strawberry season. Nothing beats the smell or flavour of an Ontario strawberry, ripe, just picked, and warm from the sun.

Strawberries are a member of the rose family, and while the old bit of trivia claims that strawberries are the only fruit to have their seeds on the outside (which they’re not – cashew fruit and pineapple both have their seeds on the outside) those little yellow things that most people think are the seeds are actually the fruit; the red flesh bit we love to eat is the receptacle.

Dating back to ancient Rome, the strawberry as we know it originated in Europe, and was cultivated in 13th century France for medicinal purposes. The first American species of strawberry was cultivated in 1835 and strawberries grow in every province and every state in Canada and the US. While we normally think of June and July as strawberry season, many farmers now grow a number of “everbearing” varieties that will bear fruit from June until the first frost. Vendors at many Toronto farmers markets (including Nathan Phillips Square and Metro Hall) usually have berries right up until October. There’s been many a year when I’ve had fresh Ontario berries for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. And if you’re wondering why it’s better to buy local berries, consider what happens to berries from California before they get here.

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Berry, Berry Good

It’s October 24th and I ate local strawberries for breakfast this morning. This is crazy.

There are a few farmers who grow a variety of strawberry that is ever-bearing. That is, the plants produce fruit continuously from June until the first frost. Usually that first frost comes in early October, but this year, October has set record high temperatures, with days in the mid to high 20s. Thanksgiving hit 32′C, with a humidex of 40′C.  This is good strawberry weather.

I happened across this box at one of the fruit vendors at St. Lawrence Market yesterday. I stopped to buy a fresh fig and ignored the berries, figuring they were from California. Then I noticed the sign that said they were Ontario strawberries, and despite my mostly frugal ways (priced at $4.99, they were considerably more than the $3 to $3.50 I had been paying at the Farmer’s Markets all summer) I figured they would be the last berries I’d get until June, so I splurged.

Usually the ever-bearing berries tend to lose their flavour by the fall. They’re still better that the hard woody imported strawberries from the supermarket, but they’re just not as sweet as the first crop of the summer. These, however, taste like June berries. The warm weather and a decent amount of rain has made them plump and gorgeous and sweet.

We ate them with a vanilla-infused rice pudding sprinkled with grated chocolate. It was the perfect way to celebrate the last strawberries of the year.