Local Strawberries in Winter!

Growing up, I didn’t appreciate how lucky Ontarians are for having access to incredible fresh produce. Peaches that are so juicy, they drip all over your hand when you bite into them, corn on the cob that is tender and ruby red strawberries that are like little explosions of sweetness in your mouth.

It wasn’t until I lived in England that I realized that not every country has access to incredible, local food. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of great food in England too, including their own strawberry season which coincides with Wimbledon! And don’t get me started on their AMAZING cheese. But during my 10 years there, I had to do without some of my childhood favourites; the juicy tender fruit, fresh corn (their corn seriously was so tough I thought the store had shipped in the animal feed by mistake), even squash. They sometimes had a display of small, over priced acorn squash – but the cashiers never knew what they were because they were so exotic!

And while we are lucky to enjoy local produce and I try my best to support local, the reality is that Canadians are net importers of fresh fruit and veggies. We buy in way more than we are able to grow ourselves, and we need to if we are to eat a variety of foods, through the year. Looking out my window at the mountains of snow means we are NOT growing fruit at this time of the year.  Or are we?!

Ontario Feb 2018

Lately through my work connections, I was introduced to new greenhouse grown strawberries from Ontario. They came onto the market late in 2017 and are going to be grown all year. Interesting right?! The ones I tried were from DelFrescoPure and are grown in Kinsgville, Ontario. Feeding four kids, I would find these expensive to buy at around $5 per container*, especially if the imported ones were on sale for under $3 per BUT I have to say, they were really excellent to eat. More often than not, imported berries are white inside and have zero sweetness and little flavour. These local berries were red all the way through and were very sweet and flavourful. This is down to the consistent way they are grown, with natural light augmented with energy curtains and grow lights. And because they are grown in the controlled greenhouse micro-climate, they have a reduced need for pesticides, instead using good bugs to eat bad bugs. So, not organic but cleaner than traditionally grown field berries.

Greenhouse Grown ON strawberries
Image Credit: Maren Marcoux

Normally, we’d eat fresh strawberries super quick but lucky me, we had tons for a photo shoot (see above) so we also learned that they did indeed stay fresh for over 5 days. You know why? Because they are picked and in stores within 1 day.  Serious kudos to the logistics people who sorted that out.

Full disclosure: I was paid to help promote these for an educational produce website I manage, but I am not being paid to talk about these here. I just really enjoyed these berries and wanted to help spread the word about something innovative that helps to extend our local strawberry season beyond the usual few weeks. If you are interested to try them out yourself, look for YES!Berries in your local supermarket.

*I am not suggesting these are overpriced. I understand the increased costs of production involved…but to buy these all of the time for my four hungry kids would not be insignificant. And that is another article for another time, how to feed a large family and stick to a budget!



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