Saturday, June 26, 2010

have a strawberry

It’s strawberry season where I live. Yesterday hubby and I went to Driedigers and picked 15 lbs. of strawberries, 10 of raspberries the easy way -- from the shelf of the little berry shack. This is a bit unusual because strawberries are normally an early June crop with raspberries later. But we've had such a cool spring, the strawberry and raspberry seasons are bumping into each other.

So all afternoon yesterday I was messing with berries, washing, freezing, cutting. Because there's nothing like these ruby fruits in winter.

Strawberries 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 of the time we lived in Surrey, 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 that town, chopping down a tree was something that required a special dispensation from City Hall. So 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.

(If this post sounds familiar, you're right - it's a repost, first up June, 2005. I have a few more strawberry posts in Archives. If I get around to it, I'll recycle them as well in the coming days.)


Mary said...

Thanks for the interesting information about the cultivation of strawberries overtime. I have memories of wild strawberries in England. A mouth watering picture!

Lynda S. said...

Ontario strawberries have just begun to appear up here in the northeast. They are sooooooooooo good after the tasteless varieties that appear over the winter. Thanks for all the history and information, Vi. Mouth-watering good!

violet said...

Thank you, Mary and Lynda. Sure wish you were both in the area, and we could share a fresh strawberry pie!

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