In Pennsylvania, we know we’re on our way to summer and hot days when the strawberries arrive. Sweet and juicy with that satisfying snap when you pluck them from the plant.
Our first post-Memorial Day activity is a trek to Trauger’s Farm to pick strawberries. Under the beating sun (because it’s always 95°F the day we decide to go), we fill our buckets upon buckets with strawberry sweetness as we fill our bellies (don’t tell the folks at Traugers, although I think strawberry smeared all over the kids faces give us away).
Our favorite strawberry item is smoothies. We freeze the strawberries so we can have smoothies until next April, when we exhaust our stores of frozen fruit. Strawberry cordial gets me through the dark days of winter. Plus there’s strawberry-rhubarb sauce and strawberries with whipped cream, sometimes jam, and any other concoction we can think of until the blueberries come in and become our new favorite.
Over the last few years we’ve worked on a strawberry “patch” in our front flowerbed. It began with a novelty hanging strawberry plant. Last year I added a few more plants in tiered barrels so they send runners for new plants into the barrel below.
For my daughter’s birthday last year we gave strawberry plants as the party favorite. I asked Trauger’s what I needed to do with these tiny plants that looked like no more than scraggly roots. They had very specific directions for caring for these plants. For a Darwinian Gardener like me it seemed very complicated:
“When the strawberries have flowers, pinch the flowers off so they don’t produce fruit this year. In winter cover with straw and then next year they will produce strawberries.”
I started off with good intentions, plucking little white flowers. Then, as the plants grew as big as the others, I forgot which were the old plants and which were the new plants. Straw over the plants? I think not. Instead they froze under 3 feet of snow. And unbelievably, we have more strawberries than ever. Further proof that Darwinian gardening works.