Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Making Strawberries

I know the snow if flying as most of you read this right now but I thought I would post this entry in hopes that talking about strawberries would bring summer on sooner. Think it will work?

Here are some of the processes we need to go through to get strawberries ready to have an berry harvest to offer you the following year. I didn't get the planting part, so you will have to imagine that.

Want to know what is better-- organic or conventional? Be sure to go to the end of this post to see the organic vs. conventional strawberry study.

Here we have the beginning stages after planting. We had it somewhat 'easy' this summer as we didn't have much rain and as you can see we don't use black plastic (for various reason) so the lack of rain did keep the weeds at bay for a time. Because we don't use weed stray, we need to keep the weeds out manually so this was a God-send.
Since you don't want to get berries the first year , we did have to come through here periodically and pick off blossom stems. After a while the plants start to send out runners (and this year they seem to have sent out a ton!). We need to clip most of them off because if you don't it will be too thick come next year and that will cause the berries to rot and it actually cuts down on productivity if things are too tight. While down there pulling, we needed to reset the runners we wanted to keep and place them were we wanted them (if they weren't already there) as they grow whatever way they feel like it and that is not always where we want them to grow. In this pic the runners hadn't started very much yet....we were still picking blossom stems.

We have runners now. Our lack of rain ended in September and everything (that being the weeds) took off even more. Between the runner overgrowth and the weeds can you still tell where the rows are? It was a jungle in there!

We were all assigned 2 rows a piece to de-weed and de-runner. Somehow Chad seemed to get out of his 2 rows but my mom was willing to come out. Chad did offer to rototill when we were finished so we let him do it. You can see in the 2nd isle all the runner that were pulled out....and remember this is not the first time we had pulled runners

Starting to look a bit more respectable.....5 rows done and 3 to go (1 Nathan's and 2 Chad's) . I took the last 2 rows on the right as that was by the garden and while I was already over there clearing things out for that, I just worked on those while I was there.

AAHH! now that looks A LOT better. Done and ready for straw after they harden a bit from the cold. John got a few new mid-season varieties this year to try and they didn't get as big as the rest of the varieties. You can tell which ones they are just by this pic. We are curious to see how things go with them when it's picking and tasting time.

Finally time to cover them for the winter. Covering them helps to keep the weeds out for next year as we won't be rototiling again and also protects the berries from ground diseases and helps keep the bugs from getting into them as bad.

Here comes the last of the straw. Leftovers from a church hayride we had this fall.

Done and ready for the snow.
We'll uncover them come spring so they can get sunlight and start to grow again and probably (well it just about a given) that at some point we'll cover them with frost cover to protect the blossoms from frost damage.
Then we'll pick, pick, pick, pick, pick, pick, pick and pick some more until you can't stand strawberries anymore. Funny how that works.

So why go to all the work to make berries like this? A few months ago I can across a study that was done on the quality of organic vs. conventional strawberries. It was nice to see something in print that we had known already.

If you want to see the whole study you can go to:

but if you want the condensed version, read on....

Strawberry Study
Side-by-side comparisons of organic and conventional strawberry farms and their fruit found the organic farms produced more flavorful and nutritious berries while leaving the soil healthier and more genetically diverse.

"Our findings have global implications and advance what we know about the sustainability benefits of organic farming systems." said John Reganold, Washington State University Regents professor of soil science and lead author of the paper published in PLoS ONE.

The study is among the most comprehensive of its kind, analyzing 31 chemicals and biological soil properties, soil DNA, and the taste, nutrition and quality of 3 strawberry varieties on more than 2 dozen commercial fields--13 conventional and 13 organic.

Among their findings: the organic strawberries had significantly higher antioxidant activity and concentration of ascorbic acid and phenolic compounds. The organic strawberries had longer shelf life. The organic berries also has more dry matter, or, "more strawberry in the strawberry".

No comments: