In the midst of a lot of dismal news about food prices and food shortages, there remains a bright spot: I managed to catch the tail end of the local strawberry season. I thought that all of the recent unseasonably hot weather meant that I missed my chance, but the u-pick-it strawberry place near my parents’ house is open until July 4, later than usual. So I went on down, drawn, like the others, by the strawberry balloon floating high above the fields.
The strawberries were perfect: abundant, sweet, juicy, and a perfect fire-engine red. I set out with my four quart basket and set to work. There were so many berries that it didn’t take long at all before I was carefully perching the last few berries on top of the pile in the basket and heading back to the farm stand to pay up. Ten dollars for four quarts- not bad, and half the price they would have been if I hadn’t picked them myself. Strawberries from supermarkets, trucked in from California are both more expensive (Fresh Direct has 1lb for $3.99) and mainly tasteless.
Even in this little idyll, food issues raised their head. As I was picking, I had a brief conversation with a local gardener named Jeff, who told me that the price of fertilizer had doubled, going from $300 a ton to over $600 a ton. He also pointed out that the price of 4 quarts of strawberries had gone up by $1.25 since last year. Not such a bad increase, really, but I don’t think that we’re really seeing the full extent of how much input and production costs for the farmer have increased since last year. If I had more storage space, I’d seriously consider coming back out and picking a whole mess of strawberries for jam and freezing. Lacking that option, I’m just going to gorge myself on strawberries this one part of the year where they’re available, tasty, and (relatively) cheap!