I love strawberries. Sure, blueberries have those extra antioxidants, but nothing says summer like a vibrant bowl of strawberries. When I was a little girl in the South, my mother would give me sliced strawberries in a bowl of milk with sugar on top. This isn’t in line with my current dairy-free practice, but hey, it was the 80’s and my pants had stirrups. As an adult, I’m always scooping up multiple containers at the farmer’s market, giving them a quick rinse, and toting them to whatever cookout, picnic, or hike I’m headed to.
I have three pounds of fresh, perfectly ripe strawberries from the market, staring me down in the fridge.
You may have watched the internet splintering as TikTokers started posting videos of their submerged berries and the—shudder—critters crawling out of them. I’m not on TikTok, but my dear friend sent me an article and told me what happened when she tried it.
Horrified, chilled, and already calculating the hundreds of maggots I must have eaten over my lifetime, I ran downstairs to conduct my own experiment.
After reading a few more articles, I combined the vinegar (for germ killing) and salt (for bug enticing) methods. I filled a large mixing bowl with 2 parts water to 1 part white vinegar and way more maldon salt than is probably needed. I submerged all my berries and went back to my office for 30 minutes.
When the time was up, I was actually physically nervous—not sure what this says about my general state of anxiety. I peered into the bowl and my heart sank.
There he was. The spotted wing dropsophila. That little f*cker. Crawling OUT of the berry.
My husband, who refused to read the articles I sent him and was prepared to make fun of me, brought me a flashlight in disbelief. One, two, three, FOUR, FIVE. The gang’s all here, the biggest gathering I’ve hosted in months. In my berries.
The spotted wing dropsophila is a relative of the fruit fly and has a special egg-laying organ that allows it to insert and lay its eggs deep in the berries, avoiding detection. They adapt with breathing tubes that come to the surface as they develop. When the berries get submerged in saline water, they escape to avoid dehydration and voilà, here come SWDs crawling to the surface—along with the complete annihilation of any strawberry shortcake fantasies.
It’s important to note that accidentally or unknowingly ingesting these micro-critters will NOT cause humans any harm. Experts jokingly refer to it as animal protein [hard shiver].
I dumped out the water and gave my berries a final rinse before drying and storing them for the day when I can consider eating them again.
I am so sorry to burst your berry bliss, but I just can’t have you all unknowingly eating bugs!
Q-Tip: Always soak your berries!!