Tuesday, June 07, 2005

all things strawberry

It’s strawberry season where I live. Yesterday after our noonday walk, hubby and I went to a local produce place and bought 7 lbs. picked earlier that morning. I had strawberries on my cereal just now, we’ll serve them to our cell group tonight and their sweet odor permeating our fridge has my mind feasting on all things strawberry.

They are an ancient fruit. My Reader’s Digest, The Origins of Everyday Things tells me.

The warm, dry climate that Britain enjoyed after 2500 B.C. allowed its early inhabitants to pick naturally sweet wild strawberries and raspberries....

Strawberry cultivation began in the 13th century, but the large, modern fruit appeared only in 1819, the result of crossbreeding a small, sweet, scarlet fruit from Virginia with a pale Chilean variety tasting of pineapple

Wild strawberries are a memory of my childhood. Every spring we’d search the virgin prairie grass beside the railroad track which bordered our Saskatchewan farm, and pick the tiny sweet fruits. Later, we’d listen to Mom tell of the time there were enough wild strawberries for Grandma to put up in preserves and jams.

I had my own strawberry patch once. It flourished at the beginning, before the city trees growing just beyond our fence, alders and cottonwoods, grew tall. Their gangly growth took away most of the sunshine above and their greedy roots leached the moisture below. I implored the city to take out those trees. But in this town, chopping down a tree is considered about as sacrilegious as chopping down an Asherah pole in the Old Testament. My berry patch languished, producing fewer and smaller berries. Finally I put the plants out of their misery.

But if you’re inclined to grow strawberries, a book I own (Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte) has some advice ( I don’t know if it’s good; I’ve never tried it. But it sounds like something your grandma would tell you – so I have a feeling, some if not all of these things would probably do a strawberry patch some good):

Strawberry (Fragaria). A cover crop of rye following sod will reduce the incidence of black rot on strawberries. They do well in combination with bush beans, spinach and borage. Lettuce is good used as a border and pyrethrum, planted alongside, serves well as a pest preventative. A spruce hedge is also protective.

White hellebore will control sawfly and marigolds are useful too if you suspect the presence of nematodes (slugs? - I think so). Pine needles alone or mixed with straw make a fine mulch said to make the berries taste more like the wild variety. Spruce needles also may be used as a mulch, but my personal preference is chopped alfalfa hay.

(More strawberry posts in the coming days.)


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