Local, organic or conventional strawberries: Which is sweetest?


Local strawberries just started appearing at The Wedge Community Co-op this week, and the website for the St. Paul Farmers Market says strawberries should be in stock this weekend. We here at Hot Dish decided to do a little taste test: What's the difference between local sustainable, organic, and conventional strawberries?

Local strawberries (Silkey Gardens in Northfield, Minnesota)

The sustainably grown local strawberries, $3.99 a package at the Wedge, were the smallest of the bunch. They smelled divine--maybe it's just the end of a long winter teething on root vegetables that made us think that--and their taste was sweet-tart. A little tartness is to be expected, since strawberries are a fruit that can be grown from Scandinavia to South America. Hence, their sugar level varies depending on the climate they grow in, so Minnesota strawberries should be less sweet than their California counterparts.

Organic strawberries (Driscoll Strawberry Associates in Watsonville, California)

Is it just us, or does "strawberry associates" sound like lawyers are growing these things? Driscoll's organic strawberries were $4.49 at Kowalski's. These strawberries were bigger and sweeter than the local berries. Their texture was also pretty firm.

Conventional strawberries (Driscoll Strawberry Associates in Watsonville, California)


The regular Driscoll strawberries were $2.98 at Cub Foods. These are the strawberries you expect to find at the supermarket: honking huge and deep red. Their scent was much more faint, but they shared the more intensely sweet flavor of the organic Driscoll berries. The texture was soft - not quite mushy, but less crisp than the local berries. The winner: While we like Brobdingnagian berries, the little local guys won our heart. We're willing to pay an extra dollar to enjoy their tartness, and though they're not as delicate as garden-grown strawberries, they are dainty enough to look good on fancy desserts like these tiny tarts.

The best idea with any strawberries, though, is to buy them as fresh as possible, since they don't ripen further after they're picked, and eat them quickly.