Biting into a bright red strawberry can either be an experience you want to savor forever, or kind of a let down. Sometimes you get a sweet, ripe, juicy berry and think: Now THIS is a strawberry. Other times you get a watery, flavorless, mushy thing that barely resembles the fruit you thought you knew.
So how can you tell the good from the bad?
It’s pretty easy. Of course there will be variation in each batch, but these are general buying tips:
- Buy local. If berries come from far away, they have to be picked before they’re ripe, which means less flavor.
- Buy in-season. Berries grown in winter time are either imported or too hardy a variety to taste very good.
- Look for bright red. If there’s white around the stem, or in the center of the berry, it wasn’t picked at peak ripeness.
- Don’t worry about shape. In nature, nothing looks perfect. A batch of berries that are all the same size and shape probably means they were bred to be that way, and may not be as sweet.
- Don’t worry about size. Small berries tend to be juicier and more flavorful than big berries, but this isn’t always the case. Color is more important than size.
- Buy organic. Strawberries are on the Dirty Dozen list, which means they contain high levels of pesticides even after washing. Organic berries won’t necessarily taste better than conventional (though in my experience, they do!), but at least you won’t be eating tons of pesticides.
The berries in the images above are local, organic, bright red, and don’t contain any white around the stem. When I cut them open, they were just as red on the inside as they were on the outside.
These came from the farmer’s market, which is my final tip. I always find farmer’s market berries to be much tastier than grocery store berries in the clear plastic containers. So when possible, shop at your local market. If you’re new to market shopping, here’s how to find one near you and tips for beginners.