It’s not unusual to see grapes, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries off-season at the supermarket. What were once seasonal favorites (in the parts of the world that they were grown) are now frequently encountered in supermarkets around the world almost year-found, shipped from their points of production. (Of course, vegetables are shipped across and between continents, too, but it was the fruits that I noticed today.)
In North America, patterns vary, but seasonal fruits (and ones that can be stored) are available both in and out of season (for example, citrus fruits, apples, and pears) Strawberries grown in Florida and Southern California start appearing in early February, in our markets in the Southeastern U.S. In the meantime, shipments of warm-season fruits come from South America. Some more tolerant of cooler temperatures (blackberries and raspberries) come from Mexico.
This is true in our part of Quebec, too, as I bought some organic berries from Mexico today. I don’t normally buy out-of-season fresh berries (opting for frozen instead), but this was a special treat. (Hmm, and I also have a freezer full of cherries and apples from last summer to use!)
But, I was surprised to see greenhouse-grown strawberries from Canada at a large market in our nearby city this afternoon. Greenhouse-grown strawberries? Really? Strawberries, as a perennial crop, seemed an unlikely, but potentially extremely profitable crop, so I was intrigued. These certainly looked attractive compared to their imported counterparts.
|Photo from Mucci Farms, a greenhouse grower|
Returning home, I was fascinated to learn via Google that this is a successful, relatively new enterprise, taken up by long-standing greenhouse growers in the Kingston, Ontario region, adding strawberries to their tomato, pepper, and cucumber production rotations. Strawberries are a light-demanding crop, so conversion of these greenhouses to be more energy-efficient, using natural gas to produce electricity with heat as a by-product was part of one grower’s strategy.
Remarkable to have ripe (and apparently) delicious strawberries (much sweeter than imported) in mid-winter.
Special greenhouse varieties of strawberries (day-length neutral), bred for taste, rather than shipping hardiness, is also part of the story.
These long-term Canadian nursery growers now grow greenhouse varieties of strawberry nursery plants to support this growing industry. Fascinating.