Safe Strawberry Picking: Removing Pesticides, Dirt, and Bacteria
Mask-clad, we exited our cars, surrounded by kicked-up dust. It was a time-honored location: the berry farm. Each spring, for the better part of a decade, we had journeyed there: an excursion as essential to us as our autumn trips to the pumpkin patch.
Breathing through cotton masks and gators, we made our way up and down the rows of strawberry plants, selecting the most beautiful, reddest strawberries available. Some were small and ripe–perfect for topping the whipped cream on a strawberry milkshake. Others were massive specimens, almost the size of my son Jacob’s hands.
If you’re a forager, you’ll have had similar forays to local farms. But you may wonder: what is the best use of these little berries? How do you go about safe strawberry picking, and ensuring that they’re fit for human consumption?
With these questions in mind, read on to discover how to get the most out of your seasonal strawberry harvest.
Table of Contents
Why are Strawberries so Popular?
Can U-Pick Farms Provide Safer Strawberries
The Health Benefits of Fresh Strawberries
3 Recipes for Strawberry Season
Pesticides and Contaminants on Fresh Strawberries
Cleaning Your Harvest from Strawberry Picking
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are Strawberries so Popular?
Strawberries are one of the most beloved fruits worldwide, known for their vibrant red color, juicy texture, and sweet-tart flavor. Because of these attributes, they are commonly used in a wide variety of recipes, from desserts to salads to smoothies. (Later, we’ll share three examples of our favorite ways to eat this natural delicacy.)
With a unique taste and endless versatility, it’s no wonder strawberries are a favorite for people of all ages. Whether you pack them in your child’s lunchbox or nosh on them at home, they are the perfect healthy snack.
With that said, the popularity of strawberries has given rise to growing concerns about the potential dangers of pesticides on their tender flesh. Put simply, pesticides are chemicals used to control pests and diseases in agriculture. Strawberries are highly susceptible to these threats, which is why conventional farming practices often rely on the use of pesticides to maximize yields and prevent crop losses.
What’s more, strawberries are known to absorb pesticides more readily than many other fruits due to their porous skin and delicate structure. This means that even after washing, residual pesticide residues may remain on the surface of the strawberries. This is why you have to be very thorough when cleaning them.
(Image courtesy of College of Naturopathic Medicine)
Research has shown that pesticide exposure in strawberries has been linked to a number of potential health risks, including organ damage, hormonal disruption, developmental issues, and even cancer. Pregnant women, infants, and young children are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of pesticide exposure.
As a result, there has been a growing demand for organic strawberries, as well as calls for increased awareness about the risks of pesticide use in strawberry farming. Note that organic strawberries are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, making them, in theory, a safer option for consumers.
Recent years have also seen an increased emphasis on sustainable farming practices, such as integrated pest management (IPM), which focuses on reducing pesticide use and promoting natural methods of pest control.
Due to these concerns, many berry-lovers are opting to pick their own fruit. The advantage of doing so is that you can ask farmers about their practices to see if they address your concerns. The choice is yours.
Can U-Pick Farms Provide Safer Strawberries?
U-Pick strawberry farms, also known as pick-your-own strawberry farms, are agricultural operations that allow consumers to do their own berry picking. These farms offer a unique and interactive experience, where visitors can hand-pick strawberries at their peak ripeness, often paying by the pound for the fruit they harvest.
U-Pick strawberry farms have gained popularity in recent years due to their farm-to-table appeal and the opportunity for consumers to become a part of the farming process. They are also great places to bring groups, including classes of children.
Perhaps the most important perceived benefit of U-Pick farms is the freshness and quality of the strawberries. Since visitors are able to pick their own fruit, they can choose the ripest and freshest of berries, ensuring maximum flavor and nutrition. U-Pick farms also provide a fun and educational experience for families and children, allowing them to learn about where their food comes from and gain an appreciation for the hard work involved in growing strawberries.
(Image courtesy of Tinybeans)
What’s more, U-Pick strawberry farms often offer lower prices compared to pre-picked strawberries at retail stores, making it a more affordable option for consumers. This means you can take home a higher volume of fresh and delicious strawberries.
With that said, U-Pick farms have their drawbacks, too. Harsh weather conditions, for instance, can affect the availability and quality of strawberries at U-Pick farms, as heavy rain or extreme heat can impact the ripening process. In addition, some U-Pick farms may have limited facilities, such as a lack of restrooms or shade, which can be challenging for visitors, especially during hot summer months.
When looking for U-Pick farms that grow organic strawberries, it is important to do thorough research. Look for farms that are certified organic by reputable organizations, such as the USDA. These certifications ensure that crops are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), making them a safer and more environmentally friendly choice. We also recommend reading reviews, or asking for recommendations from trusted sources to find farms that prioritize organic and sustainable farming practices.
The Health Benefits of Fresh Strawberries
Not only are strawberries delicious, they are also a nutritional powerhouse with numerous health benefits. These juicy, red berries are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, making them a fantastic addition to one’s springtime diet.
When strawberries are picked fresh during strawberry season, you will always get the maximum nutritional benefits–as well as the best flavor.
Nutritional Composition of Strawberries
Though strawberries are low in calories, they are high in nutrients: an excellent source of vitamin C, manganese, folate, and potassium. All of these nourishing substances come with serious health benefits.
Vitamin C, for example, is a powerful antioxidant that boosts the immune system and supports collagen production, which is vital for healthy skin, joints, and blood vessels.
Manganese, meanwhile, is essential for bone health and plays a role in metabolism, while folate is crucial for cell growth and development. Next up is potassium: an electrolyte that helps regulate fluid balance, muscle function, and blood pressure.
(Image courtesy of Everyday Health)
That’s not all strawberries can do for you, either. They are also rich in dietary fiber, with approximately two grams of fiber per 100 grams. Fiber is important for digestive health, as it promotes regular bowel movements and helps prevent constipation. It also helps to control blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and manage one’s weight by promoting a feeling of fullness.
Additionally, strawberries are a good source of various antioxidants, including anthocyanins, ellagic acid, and flavonols. Anthocyanins are responsible for the vibrant red color of strawberries and have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.
Ellagic acid, another potent antioxidant, helps neutralize harmful free radicals in the body, which can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
Finally, there are flavanols, which have been associated with improved cognitive function and reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases. These antioxidants are part of what makes strawberries the miracle food that they are.
Top 5 Health Benefits of Eating Strawberries
1.Improved Heart Health: Strawberries are heart-healthy fruits that can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. As previously mentioned, strawberries are packed with antioxidants, including vitamin C, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid, that help protect against heart disease by reducing inflammation, preventing oxidative damage, and improving blood flow. The high fiber content of strawberries delivers benefits in this regard too, helping to lower cholesterol levels and regulate blood pressure, which are important factors in maintaining heart health.
2.Enhanced Immune Function: Vitamin C–which, as we already know, is found in abundance in strawberries–is essential for a healthy immune system. That’s because it helps to boost the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for defending the body against infections and diseases. Regular consumption of strawberries can contribute to a robust immune system, especially during cold and flu seasons.
3.Anticancer Properties: As mentioned above, the antioxidants present in strawberries–such as ellagic acid and anthocyanins–contain cancer-fighting properties. They do this by neutralizing harmful free radicals in the body, which can damage DNA and lead to the development of cancer cells. Studies have shown that regular consumption of strawberries is associated with a reduced risk of certain types of cancers, including breast, colon, and oral cancers.
4.Better Brain Function: In addition to their myriad other benefits, the antioxidants and flavonoids found in strawberries have been linked to improved cognitive function and brain health. Because of these potent nutrients, strawberries may help to protect against age-related cognitive decline and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease. The high vitamin C content of strawberries also promotes the production of neurotransmitters, which are important for brain function and mood regulation.
5.Healthy Skin: Vitamin C is crucial for the production of collagen, a protein that supports the health and elasticity of the skin. In light of this, the high vitamin C content of strawberries can help promote healthy skin by supporting collagen production, preventing premature aging, and reducing the damage caused by environmental factors such as UV radiation and pollution.
3 Recipes for Strawberry Season
Rule of thumb: the less you do to strawberries in recipes, the better the they tendto taste. It is with this philosophy that we present the following recipes, which are designed to take advantage of the strawberry’s texture and/or flavor.
Watercress Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Syrup
4 cups of fresh watercress
1 cup of sliced strawberries
1 diced cucumber
1/2 a thin sliced red onion
Crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of fresh strawberries
1 tablespoon of honey
In a blender whizz together everything but the oil until well combined. Then, with the blender on, slowly drizzle in the olive oil a little at a time. Season with salt and pepper.
To make the salad, combine all of your ingredients above in a large bowl and toss them with a few tablespoons of dressing.
Fresh Strawberry Freeze Pops
2lbs of fresh strawberries
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of sugar
In a blender, whizz together all of the ingredients until they are nice and smooth. Using popsicle molds, ice cube trays, or shot glasses, pour your puree into the molds. Put them into the freezer for ten minutes, and the mixture will thicken up. Then you can place a popsicle stick at the center of each one.
Freeze thoroughly and serve up.
Strawberry and Pink Moscato Punch
2lbs of fresh strawberries, cleaned.
1/2 cup of simple syrup
2 liters of pink Moscato champagne
1 liter of lemon lime soda or sparkling water
A large bunch of mint
Sliced strawberries for garnish.
Blend the strawberries and simple syrup together to make a smooth puree. Add the puree to a large pitcher or two smaller ones. Lastly, pour the champagne and soda into the pitcher and serve this mix over ice with some torn mint and fresh strawberries to garnish.
Pesticides and Contaminants on Fresh Strawberries
As previously mentioned, strawberries are a delicate and low-growing plant, which makes them incredibly susceptible to a host of damaging agents, including fungi, mollusks, and insects. To achieve the largest–and therefore most profitable–harvest possible, strawberry farmers all use some kind of pest plan to protect their fruit.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the laundry list of chemicals that your strawberries are doused in before they arrive on the supermarket shelf.
Because of their fragility, strawberry plants are vulnerable to various insect pests, such as aphids, mites, thrips, and whiteflies. Insecticides like pyrethroids, neonicotinoids, and organophosphates are commonly used to control these pests.
Pyrethroids, such as lambda-cyhalothrin and cypermethrin, are synthetic chemicals that target the nervous systems of insects, causing paralysis and death. Similarly, organophosphates, such as chlorpyrifos and malathion, inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase in insects, leading to the same outcome.
Neonicotinoids, such as imidacloprid and acetamiprid, are also used. These systemic insecticides are absorbed by the plant and protect it from pests for a longer period of time.
(Image courtesy of Britannica)
Though most people do not consider the need to protect strawberries from fungi, strawberry farmers must be vigilant in protecting against this kind of disease.
After all, fungal maladies, such as gray mold (Botrytis cinerea), powdery mildew (Podosphaera aphanis), and leaf spot (Mycosphaerella fragariae), can infect strawberry plants and cause significant yield losses. Fungicides like captan, boscalid, and thiophanate-methyl are commonly used to control these diseases.
(Image courtesy of Gardener’s Path)
Weeds can compete with strawberry plants for nutrients, water, and sunlight, reducing the yield. If you’ve ever failed to weed your own garden, then you’ve seen this process play out first-hand.
(Image courtesy of Healthline)
Herbicides like glyphosate, napropamide, and flumioxazin are commonly used to control weeds in strawberry fields.Many of these are widely used on grass all over America. Of course, we do not eat grass.
If you found the need for fungicides surprising, allow us to up the ante.
(Image courtesy of Lazada)
For strawberry plants, slugs and snails can be a great–and perhaps unexpected–nuisance, damaging the delicate vegetation by feeding on its leaves, flowers, and fruit. Molluscicides, like metaldehyde and iron phosphate, are commonly used to control these pests. These agents target various systems of the ill-fated mollusks, such as the nervous and digestive systems.
Cleaning your Harvest from Strawberry Picking
In light of all the chemicals strawberries are exposed to, we recommend cleaning them upon returning home from a successful berry-picking trip. There are a number of ways to do this–but one is far more effective than the others.
Let’s start with the most common method of cleaning strawberries at home: the tap. Though fast and easy, rinsing with water does little to remove contaminants. After all, you need more than just good ol’ fashioned H2O to contend with the variety of chemicals and residues left on the strawberries.
(Image courtesy of Clean Green Simple)
Pesticide Removing Vinegar Solution
By creating a simple 4:1 solution of water and vinegar, you can wash more of the pesticides from your strawberries than by using water alone. The process is very simple:
Fetch a large bowl, able to fit a good quantity of strawberries.
Add four cups of water and one cup of vinegar.
Soak your strawberries in the solution for five minutes.
Drain them in a colander and then rinse them with clean water.
Though this is admittedly much more efficient than simply rinsing with water, even the vinegar and water soak is not enough to remove all contaminants.
There is one method of washing strawberries, however, that will eliminate all contaminants. This applies to strawberries from the U-Pick farm, supermarket, or even your own garden.
For the deepest clean of nature’s most delicious candy, you’ll need the MIRA Safety DTX-1 Detoxifier In addition to being the best way to clean fresh produce on the market the process is incredibly gentle, which is perfect for fruit as tender as strawberries.
MIRA Safety DTX-1 Oxidizing Food Detoxifier
The MIRA Safety DTX-1 Oxidizing Food Detoxifier Meat, Fruit and Vegetable Wash Machine is a simple handheld unit that uses electricity to release and oxidize toxins that might otherwise make it into your dinner. Here’s how it works:
The DTX-1 features durable, low-profile construction with a top-mounted touchscreen. Once you immerse the unit’s fins in a container of water, you can activate it by selecting options on the touchscreen.
After that, the detoxer takes care of the rest—pulsing the container with ultrasonic waves and rapidly releasing active oxygen molecules to cleanse your produce from the inside out. The DTX-1 features multiple modes to specifically target various threats, from antiparasitic to thermal treatments and more.
To learn more about the DTX-1, read our article here.
The detoxification process is all-natural and completely self-contained, with no soap or cleaning solution required. The only other thing you’ll need is a 120V AC wall outlet. Beyond the cost for electricity, the DTX-1 has zero operating and maintenance costs.
Since some biological threats can be transmitted through contact with surfaces, the DTX-1 offers effective protection from unknown hazards in addition to pesticides, carcinogens, and other harmful substances.
In other words, the MIRA Safety DTX-1 Food Detoxifier is the best thing to happen to your family’s kitchen since the air fryer.
All things considered, there is no strawberry-cleaning method as thorough as the DTX-1. The process is designed to clean the strawberries all over and with little to no damage to the flesh of the fruit.
With strawberry season is upon us,now is the time to find your perfect U-pick farm and spend a leisurely morning strawberry- picking. Once home, don’t let pesticides spoil the magic–be sure to clean your strawberries thoroughly with the MIRA Safety DTX-1 Food Detoxifier.
From there, you can stretch out your culinary wings by trying out one of the incredible recipes above. (Though enjoying fresh picked strawberries on their own or with a light dusting of sugar is about as good as it gets.)
Of all the seasonal benefits that the springtime brings, strawberry-picking–and eating–are among the most enjoyable.Packed with all kinds of antioxidants and vitamins, strawberries are the perfect snack for you and your family. It all comes down to cleaning off the chemical residue from your fruits so they are safe to eat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Strawberry picking is fun–we should start with that. It is designed to be a nice day out with the family to enjoy the spring weather and find the biggest, juiciest strawberries that are available. You will likely drive to the location and take some kind of transport (tractor, hayride) to the fields.
Once there, you will be doing some walking and a lot of bending, which may be strenuous.
Your freshly picked strawberries should last a week if they are washed properly and stored in the refrigerator. Of course–you may not be able to resist keeping a few out on the counter for snacking, so be sure to consume those quickly.
The powerful oxidizing bubbles of the ozonator will remove anything on the surface of the strawberry that will make your berries spoil quicker.
The key to getting the longest shelf life out of your berries is to make sure that, after you clean them–with whichever, method you choose–, you allow them to dry completely. Moisture on the surface of the fruit will hasten spoilage.