It’s a given that the first days of summer and the first fruit of summer go hand in hand! Especially when that fruit is strawberries!
June is the peak month for strawberries here in Wisconsin and it is during this month that we celebrate this delicious fruit. Here at Apple Holler, we love this fruit so much that we dedicate the entire month of June to celebrating this luscious fruit during our month long Strawberry Celebration.
This blog post has something for everyone, from planting to picking, to storing, or just simply eating them. However, be sure to read through to the end though, so you can learn more about our Strawberry Celebration currently going on at Apple Holler.
Have you ever wondered why strawberries are called “strawberries?” According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac there are a couple of different theories…one theory is that the woodland pickers strung them on pieces of straw to carry them to market. Another theory is some folks believed that the surface of the fruit looks as if it’s embedded with bits of straw. Still others think that the name comes from the Old English word meaning “to strew,” because the plant’s runners stray in all directions and look as if they are strewn on the ground. Hmmm….who knew?
There is nothing quite like homegrown strawberries that are bursting with flavor and freshness, is there? Strawberries are easy to grow in the garden as well as in a container, and your kids will love helping you grow them in whatever space you dedicate to this plant.
If you do decide to grow your own plants, there are a few tips we wanted to share, again courtesy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac:
- Buy disease-resistant plants from a reputable nursery, of a variety recommended in your area.
- Plan to plant as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring.
- Strawberries are sprawling plants. Seedlings will send out runners, or ‘daughter’ plants, which in turn will send out their own runners.
- Make planting holes deep and wide enough to accommodate the entire root system without bending it. However, don’t plant too deep: The roots should be covered, but the crown should be right at the soil surface.
- Provide adequate space for sprawling. Set plants out 20 inches apart, and leave 4 feet between rows.
- Roots shouldn’t be longer than 8 inches when plants are set out. Trim them if necessary.
- PH should be between 5.5 and 7. If necessary, amend your soil in advance.
- Strawberries require 6-10 hours a day of direct sunlight, so choose your planting site accordingly.
- Tolerant of different soil types, although prefer loam. Begin working in aged manure or compost a couple months before planting.
- Planting site must be well-drained. Raised beds are a particularly good option for strawberries.
- Practice crop rotation for the most success. Do not plant in a site that recently had strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant.
- Establish new plants each year to keep berry quality high each season.
Picking Your Strawberries
If you did decide to plant strawberries, then the next thing you need to know is when to pick them. The first thing that you need to realize is that the season only lasts about 3-4 weeks, so it is crucial that you determine when to harvest your plants so that none go to waste.
Here’s the hard part……during the first year of planting you need to be discipline yourself and your plants not to bear fruit. We know, we know….you are probably thinking “Wait a second, I plant strawberry plants to get strawberries and you are telling me to not let the plant give me strawberries? Yes we are! BUT….it is only for one season.
There is a reason behind this madness. If your plants are not allowed to produce fruit the first year, they will spend their time and energy developing a healthy root system which will lead to bigger and better strawberries the second year.
So during the first year, we want you to pick the blossoms off the strawberry plant. The original plant is called a “mother”, and you want your mother plant to spend all the energy on producing “daughters” (which are the runners that the strawberry plants send out).
It is from these “daughters” or “runners”, that you will see a bumper crop of strawberries in the second year.
If you would like more information on this process, you can read more here: http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/fruits/strawberry/picking-strawberry-fruit.htm
Whether you have decided to grow your own strawberries or head out to a U-Pick farm, there are a few things you must keep in mind when picking or harvesting strawberries.
If at all possible, you want to pick the berries in the morning, while they are still cool.
Strawberries are a delicate fruit and need to be treated as such. Strawberries will bruise easily and once bruised, will quickly begin to rot.
There are several varieties of strawberries and some of these varieties are easier to pick than others.
The best way to pick strawberries is to grasp the stem between your forefinger and thumbnail, then lightly pull and twist at the same time. Once you have the berry in your hand, gently place it in the container.
Don’t bother picking unripe strawberries, they won’t taste good and instead will be bitter and hard. Unlike some other fruits of the summer, once picked, these strawberries will not continue to ripen. How can you tell if they are unripe? If there is a green or white tip on the strawberry, it is unripe.
The flip side of an unripe strawberry would be an overripe strawberry, which you also don’t want. How can you tell if a strawberry is overripe? These berries will be dark and dull colored.
Picked strawberries should be kept cool, or at the very least at room temperature. If you pick them from your yard, this will be easy to do. However if you head out to a U-Pick facility, bring along a cooler to store your berries in once you return to your car, especially if it is a hot summer day and you have more stops to make along the way.
Now that you have picked your strawberries, you want to make sure you store them properly.
There are just a few (but important) rules when it comes to storing strawberries.
If you plan on eating them (or cooking with them) the same day you picked them, you can leave them out at room temperature.
If you won’t get around to using them until tomorrow, or the day after, then store them in the refrigerator, where they will last about 5 days or so. After about 5 days (though you might be lucky and get a week out of them), they will start to go bad.
If you want to save them and enjoy them a few months down the road in desserts and smoothies, then you need to freeze them. When you freeze them, you want to remove the stems prior to freezing. Freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet first, then transfer the frozen strawberries to a freezer bag.
Another thought with freezing strawberries, is to freeze them the way you will use them; that may mean sugared, sliced, diced, or chopped, whatever suits your fancy.
Strawberries stored with stems stay firm longer than those without stems, unless you are freezing them as mentioned above. In that case, you want to remove the stems.
Strawberries are like sponges, so once they get wet, they will soak up every bit of moisture, which will cause them to spoil faster. As a result of this, you only want to wash the strawberries you will be eating or using at the moment. Another note on wet strawberries…they will also get moldy. Wash as you go, and you will be fine.
If you do notice a rotten or moldy strawberry, remove it immediately before it ruins the others.
Now that you have planted and picked your strawberries, you may want to do some baking with them. The chart below will help you determine strawberry quantities for baking and cooking.
1 qt. weighs about 1 1/2 lbs.
12 lbs. = 8 quarts (flat) = 13 pints frozen
1 to 1 1/2 qts. is required for a 9″ pie
1 cup sliced fresh berries = 1 10 oz. pkg. frozen strawberries
Now if all this seems too much like work to you and you simply want to enjoy the taste of strawberries without the fuss of picking, storing, freezing, etc., then a day trip to Apple Holler during our Strawberry Celebration is a must for you.
During our Strawberry Celebration, you will be able to try all of the following:
Strawberry Ice Cream Sundaes
Strawberry Jams & Jellies
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
And of course, no visit to Apple Holler would be complete without having a meal in our Apple Holler Restaurant, where we will also be featuring Strawberry Menu Specials.
Now, what do you get when you take Strawberry Celebration and add in Father’s Day? How about a Hogwild Father’s Day Celebration!
This Father’s Day why not do something a little different and bring Dad to Apple Holler for Father’s Day. The whole family can spend a day enjoying all the great things we have to do, as well as try many of the strawberry specials mentioned above. Then when it is time to eat, Dad will be treated to our Hogwild Father’s Day Celebration, where we are featuring Prime Rib & Roast Pig Buffet.
Dad, as well as the rest of the family, will enjoy Chef Carved Roast Pig, Black Angus Slow Roasted Prime Rib, Fried Chicken, Penne Pasta with Italian Meat Sauce, as well as Alfredo Sauce. Cheddar Bacon Mashed Potatoes, Macaroni & Cheese, Warm Cinnamon Apples, Baked Beans, Corn on the Cob, Corn Bread, and Fresh Baked Dinner Rolls, all this PLUS our Garden Fresh Salad Bar.
You didn’t think we would forget the strawberries did you? Dad will receive a free Strawberry Shortcake as well on Father’s Day.
This Hogwild Father’s Day Celebration will take place on Father’s Day, June 19, 2016 from 12pm-4pm. Reservations are suggested but not required.
To learn more about our month long Strawberry Celebration or for more information on our Hogwild Father’s Day Celebration, give us a call at 262-884-7100, or visit our website at www.appleholler.com