Monday, 17 May 2010

And What, Pray Tell, Is This?

It looks like a strawberry without its distinctive shape - or maybe an oversize raspberry.

Not surprisingly then, these are called Strasberries.  No, I'm not playing an April Fool's joke over a month late, they really are!

Originally grown in South America, Strasberries are actually genetically a variety of wild strawberry, but are called a Strasberries because of their flavour.  Grown in Holland, the Strasberry was saved from extinction by Dutch farmers about seven years ago and is now being marketed in the United Kingdom by the Waitrose chain of supermarkets.

Originally priced at £3.99, the berries are being sold at £2.99 now on special offer. This still seems very expensive for 125 grams, in reality barely a cupful once they have their stems removed and are ready to serve.

This is not Waitrose first foray into the realms of speciality berries.  Earlier this year they marketed Pineberries, another strawberry variety.  It was white with red seeds and very distinctive in appearance.  I never did get round to trying them as they were not on sale in my local Waitrose branch, but I heard and read very mixed reviews as to how they tasted.

As for Strasberries, they do taste very nice.  Their flavour is very delicate, not unexpectedly a cross between the flavour of strawberries and raspberries.  They are a bit more watery than strawberries, but not unpleasantly so.  They would be fun to serve at a dinner party, but you would need at least two packages to serve four people - in fact I would want to have three just to be safe and at £2.99 for each very tiny package that could make things rather expensive.  They are one of those things that may well end up being used as more of a garnish than a main event because they are so dear.

They may be a conversation piece, but I don't think they are going to be the new "it" berry this year.  There are those in the press who would disagree with me and some folks are even predicting that they will be more popular than strawberries at Wimbledon, but I'll be very surprised if I see them there.  Strawberries and cream are so much a part of that iconic tournament, I think the Strasberry might well be an unwanted interloper, especially as they are not grown in Britain.  Let's face it, most places in the world can grown their own varieties of strawberries and raspberries. At the moment Strasberries are only grown in Holland.  Do we really want to create markets for products that have so many food miles attached to them?

It's a tricky question, and as I have been known to buy air freighted produce out of season (I have a serious asparagus addiction), I don't like to preach to others about issues like this.  But I wonder why Waitrose, who are known in the industry for sourcing local products for local stores, are trying to create demand for something that is really not at all local and has a fairly large carbon footprint due to the fact it has to be shipped so far.  Perhaps they really do just want to give us a taste of something different as they say on the packaging.

If you get a chance to try Strasberries, by all means do, but I would not go out of my way to get them.  I'd be just as happy with some nice local strawberries or raspberries to be honest.

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