It has been a long, slogging, swamp-gas sniffing school year, and now that it is finally in its last hideous stages, I have come to wisdom and finally realized the reason we are alive:
I have been making do on store-bought strawberries ever since the season came in, because I had not the time or the energy to get to the Farmers' Market or to a pick-your-own patch.
Store-bought strawberries, from California, Florida, or God knows where, taste like a cutting board that has been lightly rinsed after playing host to the nubbly skins of real, local, sweet strawberries. There is that whiff of some ambrosial memory, but mostly what you taste is wood and water.
Store-bought are so inferior to the real thing that it is an act of neurotic self-punishment to eat them after you have experienced the real.
I would characterize store-bought strawberries slightly different, say, as pieces of bumpy styrofoam with a vaguely strawberryish air about them, but, overall, I agree with Breakfast. In fact, I would also extend this to store-bought blueberries and apples. They're better than nothing, although I'm not even sure of this in the case of strawberries. But they are only a pale copy of the real strawberry or blueberry or apple. Preferable picked and eaten straight off the tree or bush - more flavorful for being warmed by the sun. And they're even better if you've been hiking for a few miles and they're wild!
My favorite place to hike for strawberries is Rock Castle Gorge (in the Rocky Knob area) on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. If you hike there, take the trail to the right (as you're looking towards the gorge). In the second or third meadow you cross (you'll be heading slightly downhill at this point), you'll find wild strawberries if you hike in June. I don't think it's the meadow that the bull is usually in; it's either the one before or after his. The bull was okay as long as you stayed well away from his cows. But it's been a number of years since we've been there so there's probably been a change in bulls.
For blueberries, we have a few different favorite hikes. One is in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area southwest of Asheville, NC. We backpacked there with my sister years ago. It poured one afternoon, and the next morning was foggy. We hiked for awhile and made breakfast just a little ways off of the trail (in this area, the heaths (low growing dense bushes) did not let you get far off the trail). We made blueberry pancakes with the berries we had picked the day before. As we were eating, a troop of soggy, backpacking, boy scouts appeared out of the fog. They looked longingly at our pancakes.
Mount Mitchell also has wild blueberries on the Commissary Road Trail which runs along the side of the mountain (pictured to the right). Last fall, older son and I kept falling behind everyone else while looking to find any berries that had been overlooked. We thought we were lucky to find a handful of berries, then we met hikers heading back who had a plastic bag full! Some of the trails on Grandfather Mountain (in Western NC near Boone) also have blueberries as does the Cabin Creek Trail in western Virginia's Grayson Highlands Park (if you go, be careful with those who get carsick!).
There are old apple trees in various places next to the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC. To us, generally the older, smaller and more gnarly the apple, the more flavorful it is. This seems to be true for blueberries and strawberries too - the smaller the fruit, the more flavorful it is. Huge slabs of fruit seem almost tasteless.
The blueberries and strawberries in our own yard are, of course, also wonderful. This year, however, the blueberries are falling off of the domestic blueberry bush before they ripen. We haven't figured out why. We also have a wild bush that grows next to the stairs going down the side of the back yard. Those are teeny and flavorful!
And then there are my strawberries. We've had these since before our older son was born. They came in a "plant in a bag" set - basically a plastic bag with potting soil and seeds. They're ever-bearing strawberries - closely related to the wild strawberries rather than the domestic. They eventually outgrew their bag, and we've been planting and dividing them since. They have a few strawberries at a time throughout the growing season. Again, the fruit is tiny (the one at the right is a little less than half an inch long), but they taste wonderful! The happiest plant is the one that has its own large pot on the deck and gets watered from the rain barrel every day or two. Unfortunately, the adolescent squirrels have found them. I watched one squirrel today just sit under the pot, pull strawberries off and eat them. That's why the picture to the right is not of the deck plant!
One more thing about real food (you know, I never made a promise to keep my posting length under control like some bloggers do)(and I never will!): ...slowly she turned (in Greensboro, NC) has been writing about her adventures with the Eat Local Challenge - which, for her, means eating
...food produced within 100 miles as much as possible, then extend the range to food raised, produced, or caught in North Carolina, South Carolina, or Virginia.
This gets particularly difficult while eating out! I tried to pick out a few posts in particular, but they're all interesting and many are mouth-watering. She mentions strawberries and the Greensboro Farmer's Market (a major factor in this attempt) in ELC Day Twenty-Seven .
All of this makes me look forward to our local farmer's market this Saturday! Along with produce (and plants) we've been getting fresh eggs and homemade rye bread. Last time we also bought some homemade, garlic and spices, goat cheese which went well on the homemade baguette we bought.