Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Garden Journal Entry 5/28/08:
Successfully Growing Strawberries!

Jewels of the Kitchen Garden

Realization of the Day:
I forgot to have strawberries for breakfast.

Can you believe it? These gorgeous beauties were out in the garden, hanging by their stems and just waiting to be devoured, yet somehow they completely slipped my mind. I had a whole wheat tortilla with peanut butter and - get this - storebought strawberry jam instead. It's embarrassing, really. At least the jam was organic - and I remembered about the strawberries in time for a sweet and juicy mid-morning snack.

The Thriving Strawberry Bed Today (And look at all those healthy weeds surrounding it!)

Last year I planted a brand new strawberry patch in one of my 4' x 8' raised beds. (I'm enamored with raised bed gardening, which I started doing 8 years ago, and one of these days I'll get around to telling you why, I promise.) My old bed had served me well for several years, but even if you do things like thin them out and mow down the plants (which I probably didn't do since they are in a raised bed after all), a strawberry bed will only last for so long. Most of my plants actually kind of evaporated, to be taken over by large clumps of very happy grass - which made a wonderful dog bed. I even have photos. But I digress.

Anyway, in January of 2007 I ordered 30 Cavendish strawberry plants (which are actually more like little bundles of roots with a crown and maybe a leaf or two than actual plants) for $9.95 from my beloved Pinetree Garden Seeds, tucked them in the ground (not too deep, not too shallow) on May 7th (they don't ship you your plants until after the danger of frost), watered them regularly, and snipped off every single blossom that dared to make an appearance. That's right - no berries the first year means much bigger and healthier plants the next. It isn't easy, but it's worth it, trust me.

For the first several months I also snipped off all the runners so that the plants wouldn't concentrate their energy on producing baby offspring plants, but when the deer started sneaking into the garden at night and munching down the entire bed (this was before I thought to cover it with floating row cover to deter them - which worked), I decided that a few extra runners to fill things out might in fact be a good idea. What I did was wait for them to put down a few roots and become established, then I cut the mother cord and left them on their own. They did great.
Yes! This is What gardening is All About

Of Cavendish strawberries, a midseason variety, the Pinetree Garden Seeds catalog says this:

High yields of large berries with excellent flavor make this a good choice for home gardens or roadside stands. High resistance in red stele and intermediate resistance to verticillium wilt. Ripen over a long season. Grows best in zones 3 - 8.

Miller Nurseries, a family-owned company in business since 1934 that I've never ordered from but that sounds good (have you?), says this about Cavendish:

It has been a long time since we introduced a strawberry that has made new friends as Cavendish has done. Cavendish is proven winter-hardy through Nova Scotia’s extra-frigid temperatures. It runners so well a child can easily establish a solid plant stand and it produces crops weeks longer than other Junebearers. It’s so bountiful it yields much larger crops per square foot than lesser berries. It is highly resistant to red stele. This is simply the richest, berriest-tasting strawberry you’ve ever let melt on your tongue. Or put in a shortcake. Or drizzled over ice cream. If you’re ready for new pleasure in strawberry flavor, you simply have to try Cavendish. No longer premium priced. 25 virus-free plants are $8.55, 50 are $14.45, and 100 are $26.85.

And of Cavendish strawberries I say this:
They are absolutely, positively, delicious!

One of my very first posts on Farmgirl Fare was all about homegrown strawberries, and in it I confessed to having become a purist, feeling that the best way to savor a batch of luscious strawberries requires doing nothing more than making sure you have clean fingers and a plain white dish.

I will admit that I ate the first strawberries of the season this year standing out in the garden, and it doesn't get much better than that. And yet I can't stop thinking about the several inches of thick and oh-so-whippable cream that comes atop the gallon jars of fresh milk I buy from a cow down the road. Then there are the oatmeal scones I'd been thinking about baking today - which, when you think about it, are a lot like little shortcakes. And the Orange Yogurt Cake recipe I've been drooling over for the past 3 days and am now thinking would taste wonderful with a side of sliced strawberries. (Nicole is calling it bread, but let's not kid ourselves - there may not be a thick layer of buttercream frosting in sight, but this is definitely cake.)

Um, yeah, sorry but I really gotta go. If you need me I'll be in the kitchen. Or the strawberry bed.

So what's your favorite way to enjoy fresh strawberries?

Related strawberry links:
Farmgirl Fare 6/4/05: Strawberries
What's Growin' On 5/21/06: A Beautiful Breakfast! (obviously my memory was better back then)
What's Growin' On 5/27/06: Me, Cary, & Bear vs. The Turtles
What's Growin' On 10/28/07: Growing Strawberries & Preparing Your Bed for Winter

© Copyright 2008, where the best part about this year's strawberry crop is that so far that hasn't been a single turtle - or turtle bite mark - in sight!


  1. Ohhhh, strawberries. I love them any way--with heavy cream and sugar, on top of my cereal, in homemade jam . . . oh wait, that's not fresh. We don't grow them, but I pick many pounds of them from the U-pick place. We won't have them for another few weeks though. And now I'm drooling.

  2. I'd love to make a strawberry pie, but let's face it, those berries never make it far from their bed.

    Instead, I like the purist way - eaten summer-sun warm right where you're standing when you find them. And with any luck all the critters have gotten lost in the borage and not found their way to your berries.

  3. Maybe you already know this, but the Garden Watchdog at is the place to find out whether or not it's a good idea to order from Miller Nurseries or any other garden mail-order company. I've found them very helpful, and they rate Pinetree Garden Seeds very highly!

    My favorite way to eat fresh-picked strawberries is in a bowl drizzled with a little bit of cream.

  4. Cut up, sprinkled with a little sugar and left to sit while you bake an angel food cake. Possibly you can whip up some fresh vanilla whipped-cream, if you have the cream handy.

    Then, COMBINE!

    There's nothing better in the culinary world.

    I'd love to raise strawberries some day, but we've got to get the one 4x8 bed producing first before DH will let me build another one. ;)

  5. I can't wait for my strawberries! I make Balsamic Strawberry Ice Cream with them. And, eat them any other way I can! I LOOOVE strawberries!

  6. I love the look and smell of strawberries but unless they are covered in sugar (lots of sugar) I really don't like to eat them.

    And I can no longer look at them without thinking of turtles. Thanks!

  7. The pictures are so beautiful that they make my heart happy!

  8. Thanks for the info about picking off the blossoms the first year. I just planted 25 strawberry plants and now I'll know what to do to make them nice and big for next year!

  9. Oh, strawberries - my favourite!

    I enjoy them straight from the garden, unwashed and warm from the sun. Reminds me of my childhood. My grandfather gently nursed a huge patch and we would sneak down and eat them when we thought he wasn't looking. He always knew though!

    I'm in central Canada, so we still have a couple of weeks to wait for our berries!

  10. Yummmmmm! Strawberries! I made strawberry ice cream the other day but I had to buy berries because I've only flowers so far on that overgrown patch I am (mixedly) blessed with.

    I love this bit from the catalog, "It runners so well a child can easily establish a solid plant stand..." Have you ever had strawberries that needed help to establish their own darned stand? chuckles

    Since you started up the garden blog again, does that mean I should get mine going too? I feel like such a slacker...

  11. I've ordered from Millers before, but never the Cavendish strawberries. I usually go with one group of June bearing and one group of everbearing so I can have strawberries all summer into fall. Why only have strawberries in June is my motto!

    Millers is ok.. I've had good and bad results ordering from them. My top pick for fruit would be without a doubt!

    And my favorite way to eat them? While standing in the garden with one of my dogs, who loves to eat the stems when I'm thru with the rest. :)

  12. They look smashing! I have never had a strawberry that was not sour, which is why my favorite way to enjoy them is coated in dark chocolate, which smooths the sourness. I agree with Madeleine Kamman in her gigantic The New Making of a Cook -- "unless you grow your own, all you will get is a bundle of red fibers with no taste at all." Congratulations on your strawberries!

  13. Well, you've almost persuaded me to install my own strawberry bed.

    A friend of mine has a great strawberry story. While growing up in rural Indiana, his dad decided to tear down the old chicken coop. They planted a strawberry patch on the site. They had strawberries the size of apples for the first three years!

    When I get my first strawberries from the farm down the road, I'm making me some strawberry jam and spreading it on EVERYTHING!


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

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