Strawberries - High up in the list of the 'Dirty Dozens'
Strawberries an unhealthy snack for kids:
If you think strawberries are a great addition to your kid's lunchbox think twice. After apples, strawberries are placed in the upper third of the list of the 'Dirty Dozens', a list of fruit and vegetables which carries the most pesticide residue.
What test results say:
In 2003, the consumer organization 'Choice' tested samples of strawberry punnets. The testers found pesticide of fungicide residues in 17 out of the 27 samples which were bought of various sources including Coles and Woolworths. Even worse, three samples contained pesticide residues at levels that exceeded legal limits set by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), or traces of pesticides banned for use on strawberries. Still hungry?
Strawberries and Climate Change:
Another dirty secret: 70% of the Australian strawberry runners are grown using fumigant methyl bromide. Strawberry growers assure that methyl bromide cannot be found in the fruit as it is not used on the fruit. Methyl bromide is used to fumigate the soil for producing the runners (strawberry plants). Methyl bromide has been withdrawn worldwide because it is such a potent greenhouse gas. However, there are exemptions for the use of methyl bromide as a fumigant, for quarantine or production purposes and other special exemptions, growing strawberry runners is one of them.
Of course, every producer of disease free strawberry runners will tell that fumigating the soil is absolutely necessary, but I still don't like it. Apart from acelerating Climate Change, I just don't like that the whole web of soil life is destroyed every time new runners are planted, bacteria, fungi and all.
Grow your own:
I have no information wether or not the runners you buy at your local nurseries were grown using Methyl Bromide - probably they are.
If you want pesticide free strawberries without breaking the bank (sorry, these days there is not much cash at any bank), then grow your own.
There are basically two methods. One is the tidy one, were you have a dedicated strawberry bed, which is rotated every now and then - of course this method gives you the highest yields.
The second method is not a method at all, you simply plant strawberries everywhere, around trees, alongside pathways in flower beds. This approach is much less work intensive, but gives you of course lower yields as you will not come around to fertilize all these scattered strawberry plants. Some varieties can become a nuisance as they produce a lot of runners and tend to be overcrowded after some time.
The latin name of usual garden strawberries is fragaria x anansa, hybrids which do not set seed and are always propagated by runners. Unfortunately, there is not a great choice of old fashioned tasty strawberries, one of the tastiest is 'Cambridge Rival'.
There are other edible strawberries - Plants for a Future database lists 17 varieties, even their list is probably not exhastive. I grow several varieties of alpine strawberries - something for gourmets in red, yellow and green.