The Insider: Get bowled over by the sweet taste of summer
Saturday 27 June 2009
Strawberries are the perfect match for Wimbledon, and Brits certainly love to eat them: £375m-worth were sold in the UK last year. If you're heading to the supermarket to buy a punnet or two this weekend, you could find that you're faced with a choice of standard, premium and organic varieties, sometimes with very different price tags.
"Organic strawberries can cost twice as much as standard varieties, and premium punnets can cost even more," says Martyn Hocking, editor of Which?. "But when we asked consumers to taste-test strawberries of each type, we were surprised to find that there was no real difference in taste or appearance."
This year, Which? asked a panel of 136 consumers to test standard strawberries from eight supermarkets to find out how they rated for taste, appearance, aroma and texture. Strawberries from Marks & Spencer and Waitrose scored consistently well on every measure, and both were awarded "Which? Best Buy" status.
Marks & Spencer strawberries (£2.99 for 400g) were the most expensive that Which? tested, but they scored top marks for appearance, and were praised for their lovely colour and plump, fresh look. They were also found to be particularly juicy and scored highly for taste and texture.
Tasters found Waitrose's strawberries to be just as attractive, and there were plenty of compliments for the berries' colour, taste and texture. Their sweetness was praised, and at £1.99 for 400g, the price is sweet too.
Strawberries from Asda (£1.98), Lidl (99p), Morrisons (£1.99) and Tesco (£2.29) were rated as good all-rounders. Although they also scored quite well, some tasters found Aldi's strawberries too firm in texture and some said that Sainsbury's strawberries tasted bitter.
Another option is growing your own, which works out cheaper that buying at the supermarket and is easy to do if you have a sunny site – even a pot on a balcony will do. Plants cost around 50p to £1 each, and 20 plants should yield around 6kg of fruit in their second year, although after that yields will decline.
"An 80g serving – about 10 strawberries – count as one of your five recommended portions of fruit and vegetables per day," says nutritionist and Which? senior food researcher Shefalee Loth. "Strawberries are an ideal healthy summer snack, and a great source of Vitamin C."
Where to buy
You can buy strawberries at all major supermarkets, greengrocers, food outlets and farm shops. Alternatively, you can pick your own at a farm from June until September for around half of what you pay in a supermarket. To search for your nearest farm by postcode go to www.pickyourown.info.
Questions to ask......
What colour are they?
Ripe strawberries are sweetest and more likely to have the best flavour, so look for strawberries that are uniformly red all over with no green or white bits, and avoid those with leaking juices or bruises.
What size are they?
Big strawberries may have swollen up with water, so look for medium to small berries for a more concentrated flavour.
How do the stalks look?
The leafy, stalk area should be green and fresh looking. Avoid dull or very dark coloured fruit with shrivelled or missing stalks.
What's the aroma like?
If you can, take a good sniff. If there's a strong strawberry aroma, they're likely to taste good.
The Insider is written by Which?, the independent consumer champion. For more information go to www.which.co.uk/strawberries To get three issues of Which? magazine for a special price of £3, call 01992 822800 and quote INADVICE.
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