Thursday, December 10, 2009

Season of Strawberries and Sufganiyot

Mmm- Chanukah is in the very air- as all the bakeries are churning out sufganiyot by the dozens, menorahs grace the store walls, and everyone is debating about boxes versus lighting indoors. I love this season- complete with rainfall, umbrellas, and cups of steaming hot chocolate.

This season also has brought with it a new fruit- strawberries. I saw these in my local grocery last week, and was highly tempted. But, then I remembered that strawberries were found out to be infested with thrips. Were they still infested? I wasn't sure.

Then, Yechiel Spero posted that he asked R' Moshe Vaye about strawberries, and found out that they were still infested and impossible to clean. Guess it's the frozen strawberries for me.

Here's an interesting site he linked to- all about thrips and strawberries. I'll include the short preview of the video, which shows thrips- which I had never seen before- which was kind of cool (And the kids in the background are cute!).

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mekubal said...

My understanding was that Thrips were only a seasonal problem of the spring-summer, not the fall winter... hence you find them in grocery stores that bear hechsherim from the Eidah and such in the winter. You really shouldn't rely on internet posts to determine the kashrut or not of any food.

Don't take my word for it though. Here is R' Shternbuch of the Eidah Chareidit's phone number: 026519610. He comes from England so he speaks perfect English, and is fairly sociable. I would suggest that you or your husband call him and see what the deal is.

Anonymous said...

I have also heard to use frozen strawberries. What is it about the freezing process that gets rid of the thrips?

Minor point: it was my understanding that R' Sternbuch is from South Africa, not England, but I may be mistaken.

mekubal said...

Nothing in the freezing process should get rid of thrips. They would just be dead thrips clinging to the berries. The video wants to compare them to black berries and raspberries(which depending on whether there is infestation) are not kosher even frozen.

I see vegetable sellers with an Eidah Chareidit Hechsher selling them in the Shuk. From my own years of being a mashgiach I have never heard of giving a hechsher to something inherently non-kosher(such as a fruit that can't be cleaned).

As I said, a competent Rav should be consulted, and I know of no one better than R' Shternbuch. That aside personally I will continue to buy strawberries from reputable sellers with good hechsherim and check at home to ensure they didn't miss something on individual berries.

PS... I had heard he was from England from one of his Talmidim.

nmf #7 said...

Mekubal- I don't know when the thrips actually come out. I have called R' Vaye on it before- and he says that they are infested, whether or not you buy them from Badatz vendors or not.

A good example of this might be figs- which although they may be under a Badatz hechsher- the bugs are practically impossible to get rid of.

But thanks for R' Sternbuch's number- I will call when I get a chance.

As for frozen strawberries, Tesyaa-- my understanding was that before the freezing process takes place, they subject the strawberries to extreme and thorough cleaning, with buckets and buckets of water and sprayers, making it totally clean. Supposedly the average person can't do that. Therefore, the frozen strawberries are clean.

nmf #7 said...

Mekubal- Also, the Badatz hechsher on stores remarks just that Terumos and Maasros were taken, not that the fruits and vegetables in question are free of bugs. Only the bug free vegetables can make that claim. There are books- like R' Vaye's- written about how to check every sort of vegetable or fruit. So, just because it says Badatz, doesn't mean it's Naki M'Toalaim.

mekubal said...

I know of R' Vaye's book, and R' Vaye. Honestly he is probably the most chumradik you are going to get. No one in the Kosher industry holds by his standards.

My understanding of a BaDaTz Hechsher on a vegtable stand was that the produce was known to not be infested, though checking is still required. To sell fruit known to be infested and thus unable to make Kosher is a ma'ashe ganeiva.

I would wonder if R' Vaye would say that you could buy frozen strawberries. If so I would question the infestation. There is nothing that people can do cost effectively on a mass scale that an individual can't do better at home. I know this from experience in the Kosher industry both in the US and here in Israel.

As always follow your own posek, as for me, I will follow the standards of the Kosher supervisors that I have worked for and their standards on checking and cleaning.

rescue37 said...

I have a problem with the video, I don't think it proves anything. Firstly, unless I missed it I didn't see him clean the stawberry's with a brush which may negate some of the issue and secondly, we don't know out of all the strawberry's he cleaned how many had bugs. If it was only one out of the whole bunch there may be some chazakah issues which could be relied on, but that is way out of my knowledge base. Maybe that specific one wasn't cleaned as well as the others. As previously commented plase consult a reliable bug expert

Lon said...

If the thrips are under the seeds, buckets of water and spraying won't make a difference. It seems to me that the only way to get your strawberries clean is to pop the seeds off.

Also, generally, home processes are more efficient than industrial ones. At any rate, washing your lettuce at home is supposed to be more efficient because nothing can get lost in the rush.

Also, note: they only showed one thrip after the washing process. It would have been more convincing if they showed them on all the strawberries. Or at least three.

Isn't there any batul birov/batul bishishim/somethinglikethat with regard to bugs?

I find it hard to believe that tana'im didn't eat berries in the days before industrial processes, running water, non-fat-derived soap, and all that good stuff. Did they have poorer eyesight from learning by candlelight? Is there anywhere in the Gemara where they talk about fruits to avoid because they can't be cleaned? I feel like all this bug panic is missing something important in that area.

I don't know that I'll avoid strawberries, but I will definitely try the scrubbrush method and triple check them visually before eating.