Strawberry season has come early – woo, hooo!! We all love a strawb, don’t we?
British strawberry season normally starts at the beginning of June, but thanks to the consistently sunny weather this year and good levels of light, we have the best crop of British strawberries in 20 years. So, they’re sweeter, juicier and earlier than usual. Result!
Having naturally-grown British strawberries in May is unusual because they are only available for 6-8 weeks, from early June through to August. However, in the 1990’s, Supermarkets worked out if they put strawberries on the shelves all year round people will buy them. Now they are imported from the south of Spain or grown in plastic polytunnels or glasshouses in Kent or Hertfordshire.
That’s fine, but what Supermarkets don’t tell their customers about are the hidden costs of having strawberries in their stores out of season – so here’s a little hiSbe guide to strawb shopping…
1. British strawberries in season are best for taste, quality and the environment.
Think of them as a treat to look forward to (like the Spanish do… you won’t find strawberries in Spanish supermarkets out of season!) It’s about getting the best quality and taste.
Imported strawberries have to be picked while they’re slightly under-ripe to make sure they don’t go mushy on the journey. However, once they’re picked strawberries don’t ripen, so they’re harder, less nutritious and less tasty than seasonal British strawberries.
2. Outside June-August you have a choice between British & Spanish strawberries, but there are hidden costs to consider:-
Air-freighted Spanish strawberries rack up food miles and green house gas emissions. Also, WWF has shown that intensive strawberry cultivation has environmental costs in southern Spain, because it pollutes the region and drains vast amounts of their water. Then there’s a human cost to pay. Supermarkets force costs down so low that Spanish strawberry suppliers depend on low paid migrant workers who have few decent workers’ rights.
Out of season British strawberries are grown in heated plastic polytunnels or glass houses that protect the crop from the elements and give them enough artificial heat and light to extend the season from mid-April to mid-December. They have hidden environmental costs because they release even more green house gasses than transporting the fruit from Spain does. The industry is working on making these installations more sustainable in consultation with the Soil Association, but right now they are the least environmentally responsible choice.
At hiSbe we reckon it’s best to save strawberries for the natural season and we wish you a happy strawberry-filled Summer!