The Strawberry Debacle

I think that summer is finally here! With temperatures in the 80s this past Memorial Day weekend, it’s definitely time to break out the apron and BBQ tongs. Welcome to grilling season everyone (a.k.a. one of the best times of the year)!

As I think about fresh salads, roasted corn and burger toppings, I often find myself wandering around the produce section of the grocery store mesmerized by the rainbow of options. When it comes to selecting fruits and vegetables, I try to buy organic as often as I can. When I’m looking for something specific (for whatever new recipe I’m attempting…emphasis on attempting) and there’s no organic option available I do my best to adhere to EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

Even though I prefer to buy organic, I must admit that it wasn’t always a vital purchasing qualification – until a recent trip to the grocery store. I was just perusing the berry section, minding my own business when suddenly the strawberries caught my eye (these would be great with some watermelon and mint). They were so red and juicy that they dazzled among the darkness of the blueberries and blackberries. So I walked over and sifted through the containers to find the ones marked with the little USDA Organic seal of approval. When I finally found them, the difference between the organic and non-organic strawberries was striking. Although the organic ones were just as red and shiny as the conventional ones, they were not even half the size of these monsters. Then I thought to myself, “what is going on here?” As an aside: I was a biology major in college and I remember a conversation we had about strawberry breeders making strawberry plants that contain as many as eight duplicate copies of the genome which produces gigantic berries, sounds tasty right? Anyway, so after bearing witness to the contrasting containers I put the organic ones in my cart and wheeled on.

From the look of it, I’m not the only one who’s noticing the difference between organic and conventionally grown produce and shifting my buying practices because of it. According to the Organic Trade Association, retail sales of organic products grew to 11.5% in 2013. This is the strongest growth that the organic market has seen in five years. What’s even more exciting is that eight out of every ten families in the United States buy organic products, a number that I can only assume will increase as the price differential between organic and conventional products narrows (read more here).

My strawberry debacle was definitely eye opening experience. Based on the sheer magnitude of the conventional berries I thought what are these farmers doing differently to create these fist-sized berries, and more importantly, why? My organic ones were just as sweet and delicious as the conventional ones, if not more. Next time you’re at the grocery store, think about choosing organic over conventional because, at the end of the day, what are the differences that you can’t see?

Organically Yours,


(Not so) Natural

HowGood & Michael Pollan