Strawberry frustration

I love strawberries. The best ones are fragrant and sweet with a hint of tartness. I want to describe them as a “flavor burst in the mouth” but that sounds unfortunatey like a commercial. I buy them almost every week in the summer when they’re available. I freeze them to keep for over the winter when they aren’t available at the farmer’s market. But I also find strawberries incredibly frustrating. Their attractive red appearance can conceal many flaws — an unripe white center, or a soft spot that feels mushy and will soon mold. Even worse, equally ripe-looking and beautiful strawberries can taste completely different. One will be sweet and glorious, the next watery and flavorless with a tinge of sour. And they go bad so quickly. I have to refrigerate them, even though conventional wisdom is that fruit flavor is destroyed by refrigeration.

After thinking about this, I realized that these problems are common to most soft fruits, although they’re probably pronounced with strawberries and other berries because of their lack of a firm skin. But certainly stone fruit (cherries, peaches, plums) is just as much of a crapshoot from one fruit to the next, and it reaches the peak of ripeness quickly and just as quickly goes mushy and over-sweet. Avocadoes and tomatoes also vary some (bad spots and poor flavor), and with avocados you can’t even see inside at all. Even apples, which aren’t even soft fruit, vary a bit from fruit to fruit, though less so. Bananas are about the only 100% consistent fruits. No wonder they’re so popular.

I wish we had the kind of markets that they have in France where you tell the seller when you want to eat the fruit and they’ll pick out ones that’ll be just perfect that day. But I don’t think even they will sell you individual strawberries!

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