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strawberries

Advances in food technology are changing the definitions of when food is seasonal and what is local. Strawberries have traditionally been synonymous with summer, but British varieties are now widely available in supermarkets from May to October – although the most delicious ones will still mainly be found in July and August.

Polytunnels keep frost off the delicate fruit and create more ‘heat hours’ for growth. They also protect the plants from disease and damage, limiting pesticide use. This extends the British strawberry season and reduces the need for foreign imports, meaning you can enjoy local, seasonal fruit most of the year. But if British varieties are grown six months of the year, how do we define the strawberry season? And does nationwide count as local, or should the term only be used for a certain number of miles from where we’re buying?

The answer may depend on flavour, as not all British strawberries are created equally. It’s been reported that some farmers pump their strawberries with water, so they can sell larger fruit to supermarkets at a lower cost. They also prefer to grow hardier strains of strawberry that can withstand travel across the country. In both cases, flavour is sacrificed.

So it’s still true that when seeking the tastiest strawberries, you should try to eat those grown closest to you. To be sure of a good flavour, look out for rarer varieties which aren’t necessarily found in supermarkets. Elsanta is the most common type of strawberry in Britain, so instead choose a Scottish variety, Ava, or perhaps Driscoll Camarillo or Jubilee, all three renowned for their flavour.

Farmer’s markets always offer a great selection of seasonal, local produce or you could try pick-your-own varieties. Visit either Belhaven Fruit Farm or Cragies Farm for fruit picking near Edinburgh. It’s a great family day out and reinforces the link between what you eat and how it’s grown. Just grab a basket, fill it up and pay for the weight of your fruit.

Better still, why not grow your own strawberries? It’s surprisingly easy and they’re well suited to baskets and pots, for those in tenements with shared gardens. Get started with seeds or plants, available at Earthy in Causewayside and Pentland Plants in Loanhead. It might take a while to grow a whole punnet, but you know you’ll have ticked all the boxes for seasonality and keeping it local!

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Strawberries
Advances in food technology are changing the definitions of when food is seasonal and what is local. Strawberries have traditionally been synonymous...

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