Crop Calendar - Strawberries
At Copas Farms we prefer to grow our main crop strawberries in the soil due to the superior flavour that can be achieved (field grown). For field grown strawberries we use June bearing varieties which are plants which produce fruit at one point in the year, usually June. These are planted in rows on flat beds with two rows per bed at 45 cm intervals. We lay a trickle irrigation pipe down each row at the base of each plant which enables us to water the plants even when the customers are picking.
Our preference is to plant cold store runners as this gives us the flexibility to plant in ideal conditions as the plants can be called from storage with minimal notice. These are planted between March and June depending on the weather. For the first season the plants are deblossomed to stop them from fruiting. This encourages the plant to divert its energy into the production of runners which are used to gap up the beds and thus producing continuous rows. The plants will then fruit the following years and should be productive for three seasons.
VARIETIES GROWN IN THE FIELDS (June Bearers):
- Early Main Crop: Darlisette (has an excellent sweet flavour that scores high in taste tests)
- Mid Season: Hapil (a popular strawberry) and Eros. Fenella, Symphony, Malwina and Judibell.
- Late Season: Fenella (good sweet flavour) , Symphony (good shelf life) , Malwina and Judibell
Table Top Strawberries
Table-top strawberries have the advantage of making picking easier, weed and disease pressures are reduced and they give better control of nutrient supply. However, the main reason they are used at Copas Farms is to extend the season.
In order to extend the season into the Autumn we use Ever Bearer varieties. These are different to June Bearers as they will continue to produce flowers throughout the season. By removing the earlier flowers the fruiting date can be manipulated as generally the fruit will be in perfect condition thirty days after flowering.
To bring the strawberry season forward into the Spring we are using polythene tunnels over the table-top system. The varieties used are early season June Bearers which, with protection from the elements supplied by the tunnel, will produce fruit sixty days after planting.
VARIETIES GROWN ON TABLE-TOPS AND IN TUNNELS
- Table-Top: Ever Bearers—Evie 3, Everest, Finesse and Buddy.
- Tunnel: Vibrant and Sonata.
- Choose firm strawberries with a bright red colour.
- Pick carefully by removing with a short length of stalk. This will keep the strawberries fresher for longer.
- Once picked keep the berries cool to extend shelf life. However, for the best flavour return to room temperature prior to consumption.
- To retain freshness do not remove hulls (the green cap), or wash, until ready to eat.
- Strawberries are suitable for freezing if they are to be used for cooking. Frozen strawberries are particularly good for jam making.
Not only do strawberries look good and taste good, they do you good too. Just nine strawberries gives you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and, at just 50 calories per 100g serving, eating healthily is a whole lot easier when the food tastes as glorious as strawberries.
- Strawberries were cultivated by the Romans as early as 200BC.
- In Medieval times strawberries were regarded as an aphrodisiac and soup made of straw-berries, borage and soured cream was traditionally served to newly-weds at their wedding breakfast.
- In the 16th Century strawberries were sold in cone-shaped straw baskets, thus becoming one of the earliest packaged foods.
- The strawberry is a small plant of the Rosaceae (Rose) family. All varieties of the strawberry plant belong to the Fragaria genus.
- The strawberry plant has seeds on the outside skin, rather than having an outer skin around the seed as most berries do. They do not, however, normally reproduce by seeds. When the fruit is developing the plant sends out slender growths called runners. These look like strings and grow on the ground sending roots into the soil. These in turn produce new plants which grow and bear fruit.
COOKING AND EATING
Strawberries are delicious eaten raw with sugar and cream or even with a dash of black pepper, but they can also provide the basis for an endless supply of recipes. Here are some quick and easy ideas you might like to try –
- A special way to give added sparkle to your summer glass of champagne or sparking wine is to drop in a strawberry. Alternatively, if opening a bottle of white wine or rosé to enjoy with friends, why not hand round a bowl of strawberries instead of crisps or nuts.
- Serve strawberries with scones and cream instead of, or as well as, strawberry jam.
- For breakfast liven up cereal with strawberries or add the berries to yoghurt.
- Fresh pureed strawberries and raspberries make a great salad dressing when mixed with oil
and white wine vinegar. Season well with salt, black pepper, sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Pureed strawberries blended in thick mayonnaise, with yoghurt to taste, makes a wonderful accompaniment for cold poached salmon
- For a sophisticated way to liven up ice cream, blend plump strawberries with Cointreau or strawberry cream liqueur to taste. Add a little refined sugar if required. Serve over scoops of luxury vanilla ice cream in tall sundae glasses. Add fantastic cocktail decorations and accessories for special occasions.