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    Strawberries: Poland’s Beloved Fruit

    As the season of strawberries unfolds, it heralds the most anticipated time of the year in Poland. With their popularity soaring in recent years, strawberries have become the nation’s sweetheart fruit. But why haven’t the first fruits seen a price hike compared to last year? What makes strawberries stand out as Polish superfruits? And why do locally grown fruits consistently offer superior taste and health benefits compared to imports?

    This May, the landscape is painted red with strawberries. Starting with greenhouse varieties already gracing supermarket shelves, followed by those from tunnel farming just before May Day, and with field-grown strawberries making their appearance as early as May, the fruit is set to adorn every corner store in time for Mother’s Day.

    Poland’s Beloved Fruit

    Strawberries lead the charge as Poland’s favorite fruit, with 41% of the population declaring their affection. In a reflection on the 2023 season, they garnered 6 percentage points more respondents than two years prior. The hierarchy of fruits remains steadfast, with apples securing the second spot at 34%, trailed by cherries (15%), raspberries (11%), pears (8%), plums (7%), and our indigenous blueberries (6%). Each of these fruits bears a strong connection to Polish horticulture.

    Unveiling the Truth About Stems

    Despite the potential for higher prices, Polish fruits are kept affordable due to imports, particularly from Southern Europe, which flood the market simultaneously. Among these, strawberries stand out as the most frequently counterfeited Polish product.

    It’s noteworthy that imported strawberries can be identified by their scent and stems. The condition of the stem swiftly betrays its long journey from Southern Europe or Northern Africa. While the fruit may retain its red hue, the stem loses its freshness after enduring days of transport. In contrast, the stems of Polish strawberries are fresh, vividly green, stiff, and subtly protruding from the fruit. Emitting a fragrant aroma, Polish fruits, especially at the stem, offer a sensorial delight.

    “In Poland, we harvest strawberries in their full redness, imbued with the taste and colour bestowed by the sun. In contrast, imported strawberries are plucked prematurely to endure the journey. Recognizing these disparities, it’s essential to relish local produce,”

    emphasizes Aldona Radola, a seasoned strawberry producer.

    “We eagerly await this year’s harvest season. Supporting our local fruits is not just a matter of taste but a crucial investment in our nation’s future,”

    adds Agnieszka Leleń, an esteemed strawberry farmer and recipient, alongside her husband Michał, of the esteemed title of Strawberry Brand of the Year 2024.

    Thinking Globally, Eating Locally

    The preference for seasonal and local produce isn’t merely a trend; it’s a global movement advocating for food grown or produced within a 100-mile radius from home. This inclination isn’t solely about reducing carbon footprints associated with long-haul food transportation; it’s also about reaping the nutritional benefits of fresher produce.

    “Exotic fruits and vegetables must undergo rigorous decontamination to reach Poland, limiting their health benefits. Hence, while in Egypt, enjoy Egyptian fruits; in California, savour Californian produce; and when in Poland, indulge in Polish fruits—a golden rule to live by,”

    asserts Dr Igor Łoniewski, a distinguished researcher in biochemistry and human nutrition at PAM.

    “Seasonal offerings provide a window for consuming products with maximum nutritional density and health benefits. The shorter the distance from farm to table, the higher the concentration of vitamins and minerals in fruits, aligning with our collective pursuit of wellness,”

    remarks dietitian Monika Hajduk, a member of the Polish Society for Obesity Research.

    “Professor Samochowiec’s advocacy for consuming locally grown herbs underscores a fundamental truth: our native flora is better suited to our microbiota. Our soil’s bacteria, in symbiosis with our gut, digest the fibre in our fruits and vegetables more efficiently, underscoring the advantages of consuming indigenous produce,” adds Dr Łoniewski.

    Berry Fruits: Emblematic of our Climate

    Strawberries symbolize seasonality and summer, resonating with over half of Poland’s population. Research highlights cherries (45%), raspberries (44%), sour cherries (33%), Polish blueberries (23%), and a resurgence in currants (20%) among other favourites. Poland’s conducive climate fosters the growth of berry fruits, offering a unique balance of sweet and tangy flavours, unparalleled elsewhere in Europe.

    Poland’s Nutritional Powerhouses

    Berry fruits, often lauded for their nutritional density, provide a treasure trove of health benefits. Rich in antioxidants, polyphenols, potassium, folic acid, and fibre, strawberries stand as functional foods aiding immunity, post-COVID recovery, and cardiovascular health.

    “One cup of sliced strawberries fulfils the daily vitamin C requirement, surpassing even citrus fruits in content. Regular consumption of strawberries has been linked to a significant reduction in the risk of heart attacks,”

    highlights dietitian Natalia Palmowska.

    Supporting Local Agriculture: A Collective Endeavor

    Recent Kantar research underscores a burgeoning inclination towards supporting local and seasonal produce, with over 60% of Poles expressing their intent to purchase Polish fruits and vegetables more frequently. This shift in consumer behaviour, sparked by agricultural protests, underscores a renewed emphasis on quality and provenance in food choices.

    “In embracing local produce, we not only safeguard our gastronomic heritage but also contribute to environmental sustainability by curtailing carbon emissions associated with long-haul transportation. Let’s remember, by choosing locally grown strawberries, we not only delight our palates but also nurture our land,”

    concludes Witold Boguta, President of the National Union of Fruit and Vegetable Producer Groups.

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