"Peter Henderson once lamented that it was the demise of the "particular customer" that eventually changed the way market gardeners did business. Boston and Philadelphia had been bastions of the type of consumers who demanded to know the background of their produce, how it was cultivated, and the comparitive tastes of different varieties, and tolerated no compromises in freshness and quality. This gave rise to hundreds of vegetables that sold themselves by virtue of having passed through this critical gauntlet: Boston lettuce, Philadelphia Market tomato, and much more. The New York market was different. As long as the produce looked good, it was possible to sell it. Henderson's greatest fear was that this standard should prevail nationwide once vast quantities of produce began moving across the country rather than coming from nearby farms. He was to be proved correct."
From Heirloom Vegetable Gardening, by William Woys Weaver.
It's time for my annual strawberry rant. This year, I'm going to urge you to become, if you are not already, a particular customer, not just of strawberries, but of all produce.
However, to get back to the strawberries: once upon a time, there were basically two types of edible strawberries; the small wild berries well-known in Europe and North America and a fleeting pleasure of early summer, and also a yellow strawberry that grew in Peru which was very large but insipid to the point of tastelessness. It was by crossing these two plants that the modern strawberry was invented - it acquired size from its Peruvian parent, and flavour from the (mostly) European wild parents.
Unfortunately, the link between size and flavour has proven to be very durable. The larger the strawberry, the blander and more insipid in flavour. The smaller the berries, the more they retain the rich flavour of their wild antecedants. It may be that in future some breeder will chance upon a berry that combines both features, but in the meantime all varieties of strawberries are to some degree a compromise between size and flavour.
I have in the past contemptuously referred to the large berries favoured first by growers in California as "California" strawberries. You know the ones; large, firm, beautifully coloured with a slight scent and the flavour and texture of acidulated cardboard. They are available all year, thanks to grossly exploited farm labour and hair-raisingly horrible cultivation practices, involving vast quantities of chemicals of dubious safety.
At least there were the local strawberries, in season, which were smaller, deliciously flavoured, softer and without much shelf-life, and entirely worth waiting 10 months from the end of one season to the beginning of the next. It is with perfect horror though, that I have seen that they are starting to be replaced with "California" strawberries, locally grown. NOOOOO!!!!!!
I urge you to avoid these strawberry zombies. Don't buy them. Don't pick them. If you accidentally buy some, take them back and complain bitterly, loudly and long. Be a particular customer. The world will thank you, or at least I will.