Strawberries in the Kitchen

If you look around, you will find that strawberry festivals are abundant these next few weeks. Check your local listings to find one that is near you. It is sure to be a pleasant interlude for your appetite. It will also help you to dream of your own strawberry fields in your garden at home.

With all of this talk of strawberries this week, I am sure that you are dreaming of all of the things you can do with them once they are ready to be picked. The possibilities are endless. There are so many different culinary confections available to tickle your taste buds.

One of the most popular is strawberry shortcake. There are many different variations of this popular recipe and personal preference is the most important part of culinary satisfaction. Many people will make an old fashioned shortcake recipe that is similar to a biscuit and ladle the sweet berries over it. Still others prefer to use an angel food cake and ladle the berry concoction and glaze over the white fluffy cake. In either recipe, the strawberry plays a starring role and are joined with whipped cream.

Strawberries are often used in salads. You will find them in fresh fruit salads and spinach and strawberry salads. Strawberry ice cream is a favorite flavor for many. You can’t beat a homemade ice cream with fresh strawberries added. My personal favorite is fresh strawberry-peach ice cream when both strawberries from the garden are available and the peaches are on.

Strawberry smoothies are fantastic for breakfast. Strawberry-rhubarb pie is a favorite of many people. Of course you can always make a good strawberry jam to enjoy the fruits of your labor all year.

For the adventurous, you can’t go wrong with a good strawberry bread, strawberry muffins or strawberry crepes. Don’t forget the tantalizing old standard of chocolate-covered strawberries.

Now lest you think that I would mention all of this great strawberry goodness and not help to satisfy your cravings think again. I have found a video that will show you how to make strawberry cheesecake. Mmmmm…

Now that you have read about some of my favorites, I would like to invite you to share some of your favorite strawberry recipes. We will put up a recipe page for all of those garden recipe gems that you have and are willing to share with the rest of us. So think strawberries and show me what you are willing to share.

Strawberry Varieties–Oh, the Possibilities

One of the biggest questions for gardeners is what varieties of strawberries grow in my area. While the list is vast and might seem complex, here is a list of strawberries that should grow in most areas. For a more detailed list that is specific to your area, you should always visit your local garden center and nursery.

Early Season Strawberry Varieties

  • Veestar-This is a variety from Canada that is very popular. It is considered to be very productive, but the size of the fruit is smaller after the initial picking. The fruit has good flavor, but is soft.

  • Earliglow-This is perhaps one of the best tasting strawberries. The fruit that is produced is firm and has an excellent color and flavor.

  • Sable-This strawberry variety is a newer one. The fruit is soft, but the flavor is good. The size of the fruit may vary.

  • Mowhawk-This strawberry ripens very early and the fruit that is produced is of high quality. The flavor is considered to be good.

  • Northeaster-The fruit in this strawberry variety is large and firm. The flavor is strong and not everyone may like it.

Early Mid Season Strawberry Varieties

  • Annapolis-The fruit is large and is considered to have a good color and flavor. However, the fruit can be on the softer side.

  • Honeoye-A very popular variety of strawberry, as it produces high yields of firm, large, attractive strawberries. Some people may find the taste to be too tart.

  • Brunswick-This is a newer variety of strawberry. The yield is similar to that of the Honeoye. The fruit tends to have a squatty round shape and has a tendency to bruise easily and be dark. The flavor is considered to be good, although tart when not fully ripened.

  • Cornwallis-This variety produces a good yield of fruit. The strawberries are medium sized and have a good color and flavor.

  • Cavendish-The fruit in this variety of strawberry is large and firm with a good flavor. The plant produces high yields during a good year.

  • Mira-This strawberry variety produces fruit which is large and light red in color. The quality is considered to be good.

  • L’Amour (NY1829)-This was a new variety in 2004. The berries are attractive, bright red, and firm. The quality and flavor are considered to be excellent.

  • Darselect-The flavor of this strawberry is considered to be very good. The berries are uniform and attractive, with a bright red color and a shape that is long and conical. The berries may be slightly soft, but large and high yields should be expected.

  • Kent-A medium to large berry that has very good flavor. The yields are considered to be excellent, but will decline after a year or two.

Late Mid Season Strawberry Varieties

  • Allstar-The color of this strawberry is a pale red to a slight orange color. The berries are large and possess a mild and sweet flavor.

  • Jewel-A popular berry with large fruit that is glossy and attractive. The texture is firm and the flavor is good.

  • Winona-The berries are large and firm with an average yield. The fruit is considered to not be as attractive as the Jewel variety.

  • Seneca-The fruit is bright red in color and considered to be large and attractive. However, the flavor is mild and is only considered to be acceptable.

  • Mesabi-This variety produces yields which are high. The berries are medium to large and have a good flavor. However, this berry does not store well.

  • Mic Mac-This variety produces a good yield of fruit. The fruit is light red in color, large and firm.

  • Sparkle-The fruit in this strawberry variety is dark red in color and slightly soft. The flavor is excellent.

Late Season Strawberry Varieties

  • Clancy (NYUS304B)-This is a newer release. The fruit is a round and conical shape and is a dark red color. The flavor is considered to be good.

  • Cabot-The strawberries are large and pale. The yields are average to high.

  • Lateglow-The strawberries are medium to large in size. The fruit is bright red and is firm with a good flavor.

Day Neutral Strawberry Varieties

  • Tribute-This is one of the standard day neutral varieties. The fruit is small with a lower yield.

  • Tristar-This is another standard day neutral variety. The fruit is small with a low yield, but the flavor is good.

  • Seascape-This variety bears a large fruit and is very attractive. It is firm and has a good flavor.

  • Everest-This variety is fairly new. The berries are large, firm and a bright red color.

How many of these varieties have you heard of before or grown in your garden? Which are your favorites? Any other varieties that I didn’t mention but you love?

How to Plant Strawberries

Nearly any soil that will grow a vegetable or flower garden will also grow a great crop of luscious strawberries. The best spot to grow your strawberries will be in full sun, which will have sunlight for at least 6 hours. The spot should also have good drainage.

Spread a couple of inches of organic matter such as compost, manure, peat moss or soil pep onto the bed. If you have an alkaline soil, you will want to add sulfur to the bed to acidify the soil and lower the ph level. On the flip side, if you have acidic soil, you will need to add lime to the bed in order to raise the ph level and make it more neutral. Ideally, you should have a ph level between 6 and 7 for the best results with your strawberries. Now spade or rototill to a depth of around 6 inches.

There are two common methods that are used when planting strawberries: the single-plant method, also known as the hill method, and the matted-row method.

  • Single-plant Method-This method will result in the largest and strongest plants and will produce the biggest strawberries. However, it takes time to cut off the runners every season. You will also most likely need to replace the plants every two to three years.

For this method, you will want to space the plants approximately 12 to 18 inches apart in the row with each row being approximately 18 to 36 inches apart. If you are planting day-neutral varieties, you will want to use the closer spacing as they do not produce as many runners. Keep all runners clipped as they form. The first year, if you pick off all of the blossoms until mid July, you will have a larger crop of strawberries in the fall.

  • Matted-row Method-This method is perhaps the most popular with most gardeners because it requires less work and the plants will not need to be replaced as often. The strawberry beds often produce very well for many years. However, it is more difficult to weed and the strawberries do not grow as large.

For this method, you will want to set the plants 12 to 18 inches apart in rows that are set 3 to 4 feet apart. The runners will gradually fill in the row until a dense mat is formed. Leave a path that is free of the runners to allow you access between the rows.

If the plant roots are too long, you will want to cut them off to 4 or 5 inches rather than bending them over. Dig a hole which is about 6 inches deep and spread the roots of the plant out somewhat as you fill the soil back in around them. It is important that strawberries be planted the correct depth. The plants are not apt to live if their roots are exposed or if they are planted too deeply. Be sure that all of the roots are covered, but that the crown of the plant is not covered with soil. Water the strawberry plants in well.

When planted properly, your strawberry plants will flourish and will bring you lots of joy to your taste buds and tummy. What are you planning to do with all of those juicy red berries this year?