Friday, 23 December 2011

Strawberries (23 DEC 2011)

During my brief attempt at gardening as a child, my friend and I planted strawberries in a patch at the bottom of my mother's garden. No-one has watered them since I discovered that I had a fear of worms and my childhood plant experiments came to an abrupt end, yet those plants have reproduced themselves to this day by growing runners which root easily as soon as they touch soil.

Decades have passed, yet hardly any strawberries have been tasted by humans because creatures of the soil and birds have got to them first. The berries of this hybridised variety are too heavy to be supported by their own stalks so most of the fruit lies on the ground. This year after taking a tip from the name, I bought some straw from the pet shop and draped it loosely around the plants. After a couple of rainfalls, the straw formed a protective mat. Birds were still a problem though, so we compromised and harvested the remaining strawberries while they were slightly unripe. There were enough for a serving, no sugar required, in time for my mum to enjoy while watching Wimbledon on TV.

Anyway, I'm sure that unripe strawberries from the garden have more flavour than those sold to tennis spectators. The Elsanta variety of strawberry has been criticised repeatedly in the media, bred to produce large fruit with a long shelf-life, but I've read that it's the amount of water pumped into commercially-grown strawberries that dilutes their flavour. It seems that neglected ones taste better.

The idea of growing strawberries in my own garden didn't appeal after this experience. I didn't see the point for such a small yield and it's so disheartening to pick a bright red, juicy berry only to find that it has been pecked/sucked/bitten on the other side. However, in May my neighbour offered a baby strawberry plant. Not expecting much I didn't bother to buy a bag of straw, but even though the leaves were withering, it was attempting to produce fruit. I transplanted it into a compost bag, soaked it with water, then left it to fend for itself.
  
early June 2011
end of July 2011

It's been flowering and producing miniature, flavour-packed fruit continuously since June. If I had to select one of the fruit and veg that I've trialled this year to grow again, it would be this one.

September 2011
This week

The alpine strawberry, a form of wild strawberry - fragaria vesca, forms clumps rather than spreading by suckers like its other wild & hybridised cousins. This is a disadvantage if you're interested in using the plant as a ground-cover or an advantage if like me, you want the plant to concentrate its energy on producing fruit. They are the size of raspberries, held up above the plant by their stalks (no need for straw). It's advertised to fruit continuously from early summer till November in sheltered areas.

As a child, I always used to wonder why strawberries tasted nothing like strawberry-flavoured sweets; these taste better. They can't be found in supermarkets because they cost too much to produce commercially but they are sold to high-end restaurants as a gourmet ingredient. It's incredible to think that there is evidence to suggest that early stone age man hunting & gathering in Northern Europe was delighted to find wild strawberries too.

The history of strawberries :
http://www.nvsuk.org.uk/growing_show_vegetables_1/strawberry.php

Fragaria vesca (wild/alpine strawberries) :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fragaria_vesca
http://www.pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?latinname=Fragaria+vesca+'Semperflorens'


The photos below were also taken this week ...

 Still alive ....
lavatera
side shoots of giant hollyhock
nicotiana

  
 Do they know it's winter ? ....
fuschia
rose
scabious












In their prime now ...
skimmia
pieris
heather








dwarf quince
grape holly
winter jasmine


  
I'm posting them (late again!) for December Garden Blogger's Bloom Day : 

©Copyright 2011 b-a-g. All rights reserved. Content created by b-a-g for http://experiments-with-plants.blogspot.com/2011/12/strawberries-23-dec-2011.html

10 comments:

HolleyGarden said...

You have quite a bit still blooming! I have never grown strawberries, being a bit leery of the thought of spreading thorns! Your strawberry looks very pretty, though, and I love that there is one that doesn't spread by suckers, and tastes superb, too. What a nice gift from your neighbor. Have a Merry Christmas!

gardenwalkgardentalk.com said...

I too am surprised to see so many blooms. You have some pretty flowers yet. I agree on the taste of the wild strawberries, even though your small ones are not really wild. They seem to have a concentrated flavor and the funny thing is, I can always pick them without having a bird or ant get to them first. I used to grow strawberries in my garden, but they became ant food right at the perfect picking time. It took the ants a couple of years to find them at first, but when they did, I never even got one berry after that. The strawberries were removed from the garden because they just were a mushy mess rotting on the vines.

debsgarden said...

I have attempted to grow strawberries several times. I once even bought a special strawberry planter and growing medium. All efforts have been big disappointments, especially since field of strawberries grow not far from me. What did I do wrong? Perhaps I tried too hard!

Esther Montgomery said...

It looks as if your garden is still a colourful place, despite December.

Strawberries are nice to have in the garden, not only because they taste good but because it feels exotic and uplifting to know they are there.

Hope you have a very happy Christmas.

Esther

Elephant's Eye said...

Gourmet b_a_g! What a delight is that! Happy Christmas.

Bridget said...

How fab to have Strawberries in December!
Have a wonderful Christmas.

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

How amazing to have these flowers and strawberries...mine do form a mat if I weed the area and I need to put down straw...I net mine so the birds don't get to them...yummy treat to share!!

Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens said...

B-a-g, Happy holidays and a wonderful New Year. Thank you for your support in 2012. Remember that in 2012 all will be revealed :-). Carolyn

Autumn Belle said...

I am coming over to wish you a blessed Christmas and Happy New Year 2012!

b-a-g said...

Diana, Bridget, Carolyn, Autumn Belle - Thanks for your seasonal greetings. Merry Xmas to you too.

Holley - Blackberries & raspberries have thorns but not strawberries.
I was lucky with my annuals because I planted them late so they've lasted into our unusually mild winter.

Donna GWGT - I guess it's just a matter of time before the ants find my strawberries too. I'll enjoy them while I can.

Deb - Not sure what advice to give ... My compost bag contained bonemeal, the strawberry plant responded well to that. If you're growing from seed, I've noticed that they take several weeks to germinate, so don't give up too soon.

Esther - Wild strawberries are actually native to Britain. The strawberries you see in the shops are hybrids originally crossed with bigger strawberries from South America.

Donna GEV - It might be beginner's luck, but so far I haven't had a problem with birds or other pests eating the miniature strawberries.

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