Strawberrries certainly have their season. They’re so good, all of us at the farm get extremely excited when they first come in. Between jobs, I saunter down to the patch to steal a few berries, and, of course, the kids kind of attack the strawberries in an all-out assult whenever near the garden. The strawberries are like a kid magnet of sorts. Still, after all this excitement, we’ve now hit the point where we can barely look at another one, so it’s good that the season is coming to a close.
Organic strawberries are a real challenge. If you visited, you’d find some towering thistle plants amidst the strawberries. It’s tough because the main crop of berries comes the year after I plant them. But, unlike many other crops, you can’t “clean” the field of weeds in the spring using cultivation. You can weed by hand, but the window to do this is extremely small because strawberry plants will start putting flowers and small berries on early in the season and you don’t want to walk through the patch crushing your potential harvest.
Another trick of the trade is to plant a mix of varieties which have a mix of maturity dates. Right now we are picking from three varieties: Sparkle, Cabot, and Cavendish. I always forget which is which, but one is early season, one is mid-season, and another is late season. In this way we have strawberries longer than if we simply had one variety planted. Having three varieties does make life more complex, however. Picking each of these varieties takes major sampling because each has their own indicators of ripeness. Sparkle can be a dark pink and be ripe, whereas Cabot isn’t ripe until dark red. So, when first picking, I typically eat a few, then pick a few; eat a few, then pick a few, etc. to ensure the best berries reach the box.