Strawberry 101

My favorite fruits and veggies to grow, as I have often said to my wife, are the ones that come back year after year.  Some, I don’t even have to plant.  My foraging season normally starts with wild morel mushrooms, then moves on to asparagus, strawberries, elderberries, blackberries, apples, and ends in the fall with pecans, walnuts, and hickory nuts.  Since this is being written at the start of summer, we are just finishing up the strawberry stage. 

sberry2I planted 24 strawberry plants in my garden last year.  This year we have collected enough of the juicy red berries to enjoy numerous helpings of strawberries with shortcake, a pie, 8 pints of jam, and a gallon of strawberry ice cream.  There are still berries in the fridge and the garden.  We also shared some with family and neighbors.  You can see why I like plants that provide produce each year.  Last year I planted and yearned.  This year I am exhausting all of my strawberry recipe ideas.  The memory of last year’s labor has faded.  Next year’s crop should be better.

Some gardeners plant strawberries in a single row and allow them to spread over a few years until the patch is the desired size.  I followed a few tips from professional growers and planted 2 offset rows.  Mark off 2 lines six feet apart.  Place strawberry plants in an offset pattern 8 to 10 inches from the 2 lines.  As the plants begin to grow, they send out runners.  Before the runners attach themselves to the ground, tactically move them into sparse areas.  Pinch off blooms the first year.  This allows the plants to send out more runners.  In the late fall, cover the strawberries with straw to reduce damage from winter’s cold.  Pull the straw off of the plants in the spring, leaving some for mulch between plants.  Continue moving runners to sparse areas, but leave space to walk between the two rows.  By the second year, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. 

One of the easiest things to do with fresh strawberries is to macerate them.  Just stem berries, slice’em up a little and add sugar to them in a bowl (maybe a cup of sugar to 5 cups of berries).  By the next day you will have lots of juice.  In 2 days you will have half as much juice as strawberries.  This is my favorite way of enjoying them; pouring the juice and berries over shortcake, or ice cream.  Do yourself a favor, and get some heavy cream.  Cream is great when mixed with strawberries, but even better over shortcake.  I will save the strawberry ice cream recipe for later, but here is a simple shortcake recipe.

Shortcake sberry4

    3 cups all-purpose flour

    1/4 cup sugar

    4 teaspoons baking powder

    1 cup butter

    2/3 cup cream

    1 egg

 

1.           Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.           In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and cream of tartar. Cut in butter. Add cream and egg. Knead the dough. Flatten with a rolling pin to about a half an inch. Use a biscuit cutter to make rounds or cut into squares. Place on baking sheets.

3.           Bake for 20 minutes, or until just starting to brown.

4.           Allow to cool.

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