Keep Me Unwrapped!

By Chris Mittelstaedt

I don’t know if you caught the article in the New York Times magazine last week called Twelve Easy Pieces. It was about the growing business of slicing and packaging apples in a “snackable pack.” I’m bothered by the concept that we need plastic packaging to make healthy food appealing to us. Convenience is one thing, but I wonder if consumers are aware that they are trading variety, nuance and freshness for the blind belief that even produce grown on a tree can’t be good unless it comes in a bag. It’s an odd Orwellian food message that is both more expensive for the consumer and creates more trash. My philosophy is that people should experience fruit that is whole and in its natural state-and know where it comes from. I think there is independence in being connected to the source of your food by information and taste. Why should we settle for the substitution of “unique,” “fresh,” and “quality” for “convenient,” “shelf-life,” and “consistency?”

The more we consumers know about where our food comes from—and its effect on us—the more we can act for the benefit of our health. (My editorial—now, Jane, back to you.)

California Strawberry History

In 1887, when Charlie Loftus was nine years old, he was picking ripe strawberries on the family property in Sweet Briar, north of Redding, when he noticed a single plant that had unusually large, bright-red berries with a uniformly conical shape. He carefully marked the plant and later transplanted it to a wooden keg for the winter. In a year he had cultivated 50 more plants. In 1900, those Sweet Briar strawberries were introduced to Ned and Dick Driscoll and Joe Reiter. In 1912 Driscoll and Reiter renamed the Sweet Briar the Banner Berry and sold it at San Francisco markets. Driscoll is now the largest berry grower in the world. The Redding and Mt. Shasta areas are still crucial for the strawberry industry today. Seedlings need “chilling hours{to spur production, so they are cooled at these higher elevations and then brought south to Watsonville and other locations for planting. Today California plants over 25,000 acres of strawberries-producing more than a billion pounds of berries or 80 percent of the strawberries eaten in the United States.

Enjoy and be fruitful! – Chris Mittelstaedt

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