Strawberries are the nicest of all weeds. They do think they have the right to take over the lawn, but they are easier to dig than dandelions, and ever so much more socially acceptable -- and to my taste, tasty.
Years ago, I bought several plants -- three, if I remember correctly. They were indeed fruitful and mulitiplied, and I intentionally put them in five different beds on my property. This has the advantage of providing different micro-climates, so the beds bear at different times, giving us a longer harvest season. Today I dug some out of a sixth bed. I really don't think I put it there. How do they travel that far?
I didn't get generous harvests until people began putting straw on their curbs after Halloween and Thanksgiving. Fred picks it up, saving taxpayers disposal expense, and I mulch my strawberries with straw for the winter. I read this was desirable long ago, but didn't feel like seeking out and spending money on straw. Now we don't have to! I used to mulch with leaves, which would have kept them just as warm in winter. So it must be that as the straw decays, it provides the soil the nutrients that strawberries thrive on. Someone apparently figured this out long ago or we wouldn't have that English name for that fruit. I wonder if it has similar names in other languages.
So now my plants yield LOTS of berries. That's not the end of the gardener's challenge. Saturday morning as I wheeled my bike down the driveway to visit a friend, I noticed a red strawberry. The first of the season! I must be sure to pick it when I come home. Oops. When I came home there was no sign of it. No, it was not my imagination.
"One of our four-legged visitors?" Fred guessed. Or one of our two-legged and two-winged visitors. Or one of our residents who gets around with no legs at all, thank you. It doesn't matter to me. I want to get there first!
The only way to do that is to pick them BEFORE they are completely red. I've discovered that if I pick them when they are turning pink or orange, they ripen in a day or two on my counter. My counter is now bursting with strawberres. We've had a nice serving with our breakfast yesterday and today, and tomorrow will be even better.
What a treat! I highly recommend raising strawberries. They don't even insist upon sun, although more sun means you get them earlier -- a good reason to plant them in different places around your property.
P.S. I have reflected each picking season on the terrible job of commercial strawberry pickers, about whom I have read. It's one of the worst farmer jobs. Also, commercial farms are tempted to use chemicals that I would rather not eat. Occasionally, I'm tempted by one of those huge strawberries on a buffet, but I always regret it. They aren't as good as mine, which are only a day or two old. It's better to munch on mellon pieces, which spent their youth inside a rind that separated the fruit from the pesticides.
Thursday, May 17, 2012