Jan 28, 2013

Technology helps grow Bug-Free Strawberries

the strawberry is one of the tastiest fruits available, yet also one of the most halachically controversial and difficult. Many oppose the eating of strawberries due to the supposed infestation by bugs that are microscopic in size. Even when they say strawberries might not be infested, they then say that the fruit are so doped up with pesticides that they still cannot be eaten, or they should at least go through a serious washing.

Those who say strawberries should not be eaten, because of the bugs, do allow the consumption of strawberries after they have been ground up into mush. It might make for a good milkshake or fruitshake, but it is not the same as eating fresh strawberries or a strawberry shortcake.

This attitude towards strawberries might hopefully soon change.

An Israeli chemical developer has come up with a new type of pesticide called Tamar Tech that might solve all these problems.

According to the AgroNews website, Tamar Tech, which has recently been approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, is a new vegetable oil based emulsion product that will sharply reduce the need to use a chemical pesticide agent. Tamat Tech is safe for human consumption, as well as being environmentally safe. It is already being used in the growing of 40,000 tons of cherry tomatoes in southern Israel.

According to JKN, "The new product, called “Tamar Tech” (תמר טק), is a product of the Tamar Shelf (תמר שלף) Company in Kibbutz Ein HaBasor in the Gaza border area. The kibbutz has have been working with the emulsifier for a number of years and today can show data proving they are capable to growing produce clean of insect infestation using only 20% of the amount of pesticides used today. It can be used for other produce as well, not just ‘green’ items associated with the ‘Gush Katif’ vegetables.

Tamar Tech officials are pleased the product has received the necessary certification for marketing, stressing Tamar Tech is not a pesticide and it is non-toxic. Kibbutz officials remain optimistic, citing the fact the product is inexpensive and a farmer does not need to use a large quantity to achieve desired results.

Some of the growers of the bug free so-called Gush Katif greens have been testing the product and it appears it does live up to claims made by the manufacturer."

JKN says, "The new product is reportedly appropriate for growing lettuce, dill, baby salad leaves, parsley, mint leaves, tomatoes and more.", and I would add that the Agro Shelef website also includes strawberries in their list.

All the above news is really a few months old already. What's new is the following tidbit:

According to Ladaat, a strawberry grower in southern Israel has now grown his strawberries using the pesticide, Tamar Tech. He has grown 30 ton of clean strawberries over 6 dunam (1.5 acres) of land. The strawberries were also grown off the ground, keeping the bugs away from the plants.

I don't know which had more of an effect on the level of bugs in the fruit, but either way they successfully have grown a clean crop of strawberries.... and that is good news for the consumer..

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  1. Actually, in the short run it's good for the consumer. in the long run, it's devastating. the bugs in strawberries are part of the food chain. when you actively eliminate a part of the chain, it has direct and negative effects up and down the line.

  2. I came up with this conspiracy theory when they announced this revolutionary new way to reduce pesticides, minutes after the whole pesticides fiasco.

  3. Shaya, you are right, but I assume that the impact will be limited to the bug-free industry and the vast majority of the market and consumers will continue to buy regular produce like they buy lettuce. There are just too many people who think they are smarter than the rabbis, and disregard the fact that we are becoming more aware of these bugs rather than becoming more stringent. As for the bugs in the strawberries, I'm not sure we are talking about microscopic bugs, but rather a pervasive problem of tiny worms.

  4. I would say much of the issue is stringency. For example, regarding strawberries, the CRC says on its fruits and vegetables page:
    Strawberries – Fresh strawberries that are smooth and rounded in shape should have the tops cut off and the strawberries should be gently rubbed while rinsed well under a strong stream of water. Strawberries that have an unusual shape and are curved, causing some crevices and overlaps on the surface where small insects may hide, must have the tops removed and then also must be soaked for a short while in a kosher vegetable wash or a soap solution. They then must be rinsed off under a strong stream of water. All frozen without added flavors or colors are acceptable. All frozen strawberries packed only with sugar are acceptable. Canned strawberries require a reliable hashgacha

    This is exactly what I have always done. Others say that strawberries cannot be eaten because of the infestation and the only way possible is via completely mashing the strawberries. Stringency is a large part of what is going on with the bug issue.


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