Bringing back the Marshall strawberry

Marshall Strawberry Art

Leah Gauthier at work on Marshal strawberry art. Photo by Annie Corrigan/WFIU Public Radio [Indiana Public Media], used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Thanks to Civil Eats, I recently learned about efforts to return to production a delicious but fragile strawberry. Arielle Golden reports,

Five years ago, Slow Foods’ “Most Endangered Foods” list included the Marshall Strawberry. The fruit, known as the finest eating strawberry in America by the James Beard Foundation, is a deep, dark, red, with an exceptionally bold flavor. After World War II, the Marshall was devastated by viruses and has been left out of conventional supermarket supply chains due to its soil specifications and the delicate handling it requires.

The fruit is so soft, in fact, that it leaves a trail of juice when harvested and moved from the fields. This makes the Marshall difficult to ship and store, but oh-so-good to eat. But Indiana-based artist Leah Gauthier does not believe that the absence of the Marshall in grocery stores means we can’t enjoy it, and her strawberry project introduces a new philosophy of produce distribution.

Find Golden’s excellent article here. Indiana Public Radio has also covered Gauthier’s work. As Megan Meyer reported in 2010,

[Gauthier’s] series of works started with a nectarine in Spain: “I bit into a nectarine and it was like a religious experience. I thought, why do they have such great produce over there, and why is what I buy in the grocery store completely tasteless? It set a quest in my mind, to figure out why this was so. I did a lot of research; I found out about industrial agriculture and monocultures and food traveling 5,000 miles from farm to market. This is why it’s tasteless.” So she came back and started planting hardy heirloom fruits and vegetables from seed, not just for her own gustatorial pleasure, but also to be more self-sufficient.

For more on how Gauthier’s passion for full-flavor local produce intersects with her artwork, check out Meyer’s  story, as well as Annie Corrigan’s report from January of this year.

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