TODAY'S MAIN INGREDIENT - PODCAST
StrawberriesJune 12, 2021
Today’s Main Ingredient is Strawberry!
Host Mikki Uzupes talks sweet strawberries with farmer Brian Fox of Salem Mountain Farm and Kate Woerhle, executive chef at Settler’s Inn in Hawley PA. Registered Dietitian Carol Kneier weights in on the nutritious benefits of strawberries in a well-rounded diet.
Strawberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow in almost all climates and soils, as long as they are in a location that gets full sun. Plus, they are far more flavorful than grocery-store berries (often trucked from far away); this is because the sugar in them converts to starch soon after they’re picked.
Strawberry plants are perennials that can produce berries for four or five years. They are cold-hardy and will generally survive our region’s winter temperatures.
Strawberry plants reproduce both through seeds, and from runners that produce “daughter” plants. In theory a strawberry bed can grow indefinitely, even after the mother plants die from old age. Nevertheless, many gardeners establish new plants every year or two to keep quality high each season.
Strawberry Plants Come in Three Types:
• June-bearing varieties bear fruit all at once, usually over a period of three weeks. Day-length sensitive, these varieties produce buds in the autumn, flowers, and fruits the following June, and runners during the long days of summer. For the home garden, June-bearers are recommended, although you will have to wait a year to harvest fruit.
• Everbearing varieties produce a big crop in spring, produce lightly in the summer, and then bear another crop in late summer/fall. These varieties form buds during the long days of summer and the short days of autumn. The summer-formed buds flower and fruit in autumn, and the autumn-formed buds fruit the following spring.
• Day-neutral varieties produce fruit continuously through the season, until the first frost: Insensitive to day length, these varieties produce buds, fruits, and runners continuously if temperature remains between 35° and 85°F (1° to 30°C). Production is less than that of June-bearers.
Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site:
• Strawberry plants require 6 to 10 hours a day of direct sunlight, so choose your planting site accordingly.
• The planting site must be well-drained. Raised beds are a particularly good option for strawberry plants.
• Soil pH should be between 5.5 and 7. If necessary, amend your soil in advance of planting. If your soil is naturally alkaline, it’s best to grow strawberries in half-barrels or other large containers filled with compost-enriched potting soil.
• Ideally, begin working in aged manure or compost to the soil a couple months before planting. If you have clay soil, generally mix in 4 inches or more of compost, and rake the clay soil into raised mounds to further improve drainage. If your soil is sandy, just cultivate lightly to remove weeds and mix in a 1-inch layer of rich compost or rotted manure.
Purchasing and Planting:
• Choose disease-resistant plants from a reputable nursery.
• Penn State University has recommended these varieties for Pennsylvania: Albion, Allstar, Camarosa, Chandler, Darselect, Earliglow, Everest, Evie-2, Honeoye, Jewel, L’Amour, Seascape, Sweet Charlie, Tribute, Tristar, Wendy.
• Plant strawberries after the last spring frost, where the plants will get 6 to 10 hours of direct sunlight daily.
• Plant about 18 inches apart, in rows 4 feet apart.
• Water plants well at the time of planting.
• Make planting holes deep and wide enough to accommodate the entire root system without bending it. However, don’t plant too deep; the leaves, flowers, and fruit must be exposed to light and fresh air.
• Practice crop rotation for the most success. Unless you plan to amend your soil each year, do not plant in a site that recently had strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant.
Tending Your Bed:
• Moisture is important due to strawberries’ shallow roots. Water adequately, about one inch per square foot per week. Strawberry plants need a lot of water when the runners and flowers are developing and again in the late summer, when the plants are fully mature and gearing up for winter dormancy.
• Keep strawberry beds mulched to reduce water needs and weed invasion. Any type of mulch—from black plastic to pine straw to shredded leaves—will keep the soil moist and the plants clean.
• Be diligent about weeding. Weed by hand, especially in the first months after planting.
• In the first year, pick off blossoms to discourage strawberry plants from fruiting. If not allowed to bear fruit, they will spend their food reserves on developing healthy roots, and yields will be much greater in the second year.
• In the first two years after planting, it is recommended to remove the runners, so all the plant’s energy goes into your new plants. When ready for the next generation, try to keep daughter plants spaced about 10 inches apart.
• Since strawberry plants have shallow roots, they may require fertilization more than once during the growing season.
(1) Apply bone meal fertilizer to the soil surrounding strawberry plants at a rate of 1/2-pound per 100 square feet to add phosphorus to the soil. Young strawberry plants require phosphorous for healthy root growth and greater fruit production.
(2) Mix blood fertilizer into the soil surrounding plants at 1/2-pound per 100 square feet to release nitrogen in the soil. Nitrogen is an important element for optimal strawberry growth.
(3) Add a layer of pine needle or straw mulch around strawberry plants as they start to grow; this mulch helps keep the fruit clean once it grows and cuts down on weed growth. Pine needles also increase acidity in the soil, which is beneficial to strawberry growth.
(4) Fertilize the soil around strawberry plants again if leaves appear light green or unhealthy.
• When the growing season is over, mow or cut foliage down to one inch. This can be done after the first couple of frosts, or when air temps reach 20°F.
• Mulch plants about 4 inches deep with straw, pine needles, or other organic material. In even colder regions, more insulating mulch should be added.
• Natural precipitation should appropriately maintain sufficient soil moisture.
• Remove mulch in early spring, after the danger of frost has passed.
• Keeping beds weed-free and using a gritty mulch can deter slugs and bugs. Spread sand over the strawberry bed to deter slugs. Pine needles also foil slug and pill-bug damage. Check out 4 Ways to Get Rid of Garden Slugs.
• For bigger bugs such as Japanese beetles, spray your plants with puréed garlic and neem seed oil.
• Row covers are a good option for protecting blossoms and fruit from birds, or position balloons with scare-eyes above the beds and use reflective Mylar bird tape to deter them.
• Fruit is typically ready for harvesting 4 to 6 weeks after blossoming.
• Harvest only fully red, ripe berries, and pick every three days.
• Cut the stem; do not pull the berry or you could damage the plant.
• For June-bearing strawberries, the harvest will last up to 3 weeks. You should have an abundance of berries, depending on the variety.
• Store unwashed berries in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.
• Strawberries can be frozen whole for about 2 months; or sliced and gently mixed with a teaspoon of sugar per pint, and frozen in bulk, or in individual portions using an ice-cube tray (transfer to a freezer bag once solid).
These bright red berries are perhaps most commonly used in desserts and sweet pastries, or tossed with a little sugar and served fresh with ice cream or whipped cream, or dipped in chocolate for a special treat. Also in pies, crumbles, cobblers, muffins and, of course, strawberry shortcake.
3 pints strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup of Balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
STEP 1 – Sprinkle the sliced strawberries with the brown sugar and let stand until they give up a fair amount of liquid. Strain the liquid into a saucepan. Set aside the berries and refrigerate until ready to serve.
STEP 2 – Put strawberry liquid in a saucepan with the vinegar, granulate sugar and lemon juice. Bring to boil and simmer until the liquid is quite syrupy, or reduced it by half of its original volume. Cool.
STEP 3 – Pour syrup over berries, toss, optionally add a few grinds of black pepper, and serve.
Serving options: on a scoop of ice cream, with a dab of whipped cream, or over pound cake or angel food cake.
Strawberries can also be used in savory dishes.
• Make a fresh strawberry relish with one cup finely chopped berries, one Tablespoon minced basil and a Tablespoon honey. Goes nicely with pork or salmon.
• Doctor a cup of barbecue sauce by adding 2 Tablespoons each of brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and honey, plus a cup of sliced fresh strawberries.
• Add fresh strawberries to salads: a green salad or spinach salad or in pasta salad with fresh mint leaves and toasted, slivered almonds.
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon chopped onion
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
STEP 1 – Toast almonds in a dry skillet on top of the stove, watching constantly and stirring as needed to prevent burning.
STEP 2 – Assemble the salad in a large bowl with the strawberry and almonds on top.
STEP 3 – Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a blender and process. Pour over the salad and toss.
STEP 1 – Combine all the ingredients and chill.
STEP 2 – Serve with poultry, pork, or as a dip.
Today's Main Ingredient is sponsored in part by:
Thanks also to Fertile Valley and Wolfe Spring Farms for their sponsorship of the BoldGold radio station broadcasts.
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