Here on the North Coast we rejoice in spring, when the snow and ice retreats, Jack Frost returns to the North Pole and the growing season begins. We also mourn when the last of the summer berries and tomatoes, the fall apples and squash disappear. Farmer’s markets close up. Some apple houses stay open longer but even they eventually shut their doors as Lake Effect Snow takes over.
Then comes a temporary salvation! Driscoll’s fruits from California, Mexico and South America show up on our grocer shelves. This week at our local Giant Eagle there was a choice of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries.
What is Driscoll’s?
Who are these “Driscoll’s” who provide us with a taste of sunshine in the dark of our winter. According to their web site, the company was started in 1904 by two friends, Joseph “Ed” Reiter and R.O. Driscoll who began producing Sweet Briar strawberries in California’s Pajaro Valley. Today, Miles Reiter, berry farmer and grandson of Ed, leads the company.
Driscoll’s farms are located in British Columbia, Canada, on both coasts of the USA, in Mexico, Chile and Argentina in South America. Their motto could be “It’s always summer somewhere”. Their state of the art cooling and shipping methods help their products reach the market fresh and undamaged.
From the company web site, “Driscoll’s berries are grown on family farms in some of the world’s premiere growing regions. These farmers share a commitment to growing the world’s best berries and to protecting their family land to hand down to future generations.” You can read bios of some of the farmers – some started as pickers and now run their own operations. Others maintain farms passed down from their ancestors. Their employees include not only pickers and packers but people who are in charge of food safety, human resources and all the other positions found in large businesses. They do offer some specialized opportunities, such as Blueberry Deal Specialist, Strawberry Planner, and National Organic Supply Manager.
While no imported berry can rival the taste of a NE Ohio summer strawberry or raspberry just minutes from the field, I find Driscoll’s raspberries, blackberries and blueberries to be a more than acceptable winter substitute. Their strawberries are another matter. Some shipments are better than others and today’s were positively pink and white instead of the lovely red of a fully ripe strawberry. There are times when they are better, but this time of year I opt for frozen strawberries.
I found one complaint on the web of moldy fruit in an Albertson’s supermarket and one instance of a bug in a package of raspberries. As for the bug, food does come from the earth where the bugs live – wash before eating. And the mold? Probably a supply chain problem, either delay in shipment somewhere or mishandling by the shipper. Or receiver. I always check the package before I buy and plan to freeze or eat right away.
Most of the time any fruit sold out of season locally is pricey, but lately these berries have been on sale. Sale price this week in my local Giant Eagle was two 1/2 pints for $3.99, a little pricey but not so far off from the price of similar local produce in the summer. Close enough that two packages of sweet, juicy raspberries jumped into my cart!
There is a lot of emphasis placed on buying local and supporting local farmers. I don’t see anything wrong with supporting farmers from other regions and countries when our growing season has ended. Agriculture is a good thing, no matter whether in my back yard or 1000′s of miles away.
To learn more about Driscoll’s operation visit their web site at www.driscolls.com. There you can also find recipes and decorating ideas using Driscoll’s fruits.