Strawberry Season in Malta
Strawberry Season in Malta
The strawberry packs a mighty punch when it comes to what that little fruit is all about. One of the highest allergy-inducing foods around, both strawberries and tomatoes can present with sensitivity in those who are allergic to birch pollen. This is also due to the way in which conventional strawberries (and tomatoes) are grown and handled in countries that use GMO sprays and pesticides. The strawberry fruit itself is also one of the most sensitive foods among the world’s produce. Strawberries absorb every toxin that enters its sphere in a way that tops the charts of what not to eat if it has been handled poorly or genetically modified.
What I learned from meeting our local Maltese farmers is that strawberries require more of a watchful eye and a soft hand. The strawberries can’t be in direct contact with the soil, so they need to lay out long rows of plastic to keep the fruit vines separate from the soil itself. Another danger is a particular spider that if it makes it to the crop, they are dead before they begin. For many weeks the farmer needs to be out with the strawberries checking on every vine and stage of growth. I liken strawberry farming to parenting children or pets. When they are young, they need to be watched carefully and they want you around, sort of like a puppy. Then when they get close to their maturity, they become like a sleepy teenager or a cat and need a watchful eye with a hands-off approach. And then it happens…they grow up, show out and become the most beautiful fruit on the block. Nothing beats that bright, perfect red they become. When I moved to Malta and ate my first strawberry, I literally had an out-of-body experience. They do not make strawberries like that where I came from in the United States! Only if you live in the Mediterranean areas can you fully appreciate the magnitude of purity and flavour that a perfectly ripe, organically grown strawberry can deliver.
I imagine this is why in Malta, they have an actual festa in honour of the mighty strawberry! Festa Frawli (Frawli is the Maltese word for strawberry). The whole island drops what they are doing to get down to the farming town of Mgarr and from morning until evening the town turns red. All along the streets before getting to the town square, you will find beautiful and bright artwork hung in rows upon rows down several streets from the children of local schools to decorate for Festa Frawli. Then you get to the town square and its strawberries everywhere! Strawberry sangria, strawberry desserts, fresh strawberries by the basket, strawberry liqueur, strawberry jams, strawberry breads and cannoli. People even dress in red and some even wear strawberry costumes! Live music is played in front of the large church on the square and people celebrate their beloved strawberries for exactly the precious fruit and stupendous requirements in getting those strawberries to their full potential and ready for the world to enjoy. The farmers show up with trucks full of baskets of strawberries and still, when I went to buy some, they had already run out and were back picking from the farms to do a second run!
The health benefits of strawberries are impressive. They are not a high glycemic fruit and therefore can be enjoyed without guilt by diabetics. They are thought to help reduce inflammation in arthritis and the high levels of antioxidants can help to prevent a stroke! They are a solid source of potassium (it’s not just bananas), and contain a good amount of vitamin C (not just oranges) that helps strengthen our immune system. An additional plus if you are considered middle age like I am, strawberries contain ellagic acid which is to help prevent the loss of collagen to keep your skin looking younger and healthier. Those ellagic acids found in strawberries also help with your eyes and help slow down the degeneration of eyesight. These beautiful little gems of the islands really pack a punch and the Maltese recognize that and celebrate it!
Long live the strawberries and if you have never experienced a strawberry festa, come visit us in Malta next year for the festivities! You will not be disappointed!