Thursday, June 12, 2008

Our own organic strawberries - worth the wait!

Here is a view of the small strawberry patch in our garden, which is one of the perennial plots in a community garden sponsored by Project Grow in Ann Arbor. It is our 4th year with Project Grow and the 3rd year with this perennial plot. which was taken over from another gardener for whom life got in the way (I understand that!), so we have been bringing a rather neglected small plot of land back to life. The first year was focused on clearing one area and building raised beds just to get our tomato plants in the ground. I am not sure if we even found the strawberry patch that was completely overgrown early during that first year. By the second year, we had found the strawberries, got them weeded, protected from the birds, had blossoms everywhere, were very excited about having our very own organic strawberries, and sigh......., we got caught with a late frost. Oh heart-break.......not one, not one! strawberry. We seriously considered plowing them under in frustration but gave them one more year.

This year, we supported them with straw, weeded, watered, covered them when there was a chance of frost (this is an effort since it is ~5 mile drive to our garden), put up a higher fence around the garden to keep the deer out (i.e., steer them to those gardens with lower fences), saw the zillions of blossoms again, and have been thrilled to finally harvest our own completely organically grown strawberries. There are so many berries waiting to ripen that I cannot begin to count them all (like a little mini-version of the stars in the sky at night). We have high hopes this year of having our own little bumper crop. In fact, we harvested twice yesterday, once in the morning (these in the picture below) and then even more were ripe in the evening. We'll be making the drive at least daily to hopefully be ahead of any critters who might also be waiting for perfect berries for their dessert.

I have been on a search for organically grown strawberries ever since the Environmental Working Group came out with their list of the 12 most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables in the 90's. I have tried to reduce if not eliminate potential cancer-causing molecules from my food as much as possible. In fact, I was attending a wedding last month where strawberries were served as snacks between the wedding and reception. As I was standing in line, a woman picked up the largest strawberry I have ever seen (nearly the size of the palm of my hand), turned to me and asked if this could possibly be a natural size for a strawberry. Well, there are none in my little strawberry patch that size, so I don't really know, but somehow I doubt it. I didn't eat any at the wedding, knowing I could wait until my own were ready.

Here is our very first harvest (yes, worth the wait!). We simply washed them, cut off the green leaves, sliced them and served them with a little bit of freshly stewed rhubarb over a little bit of vanilla ice cream. It was decadent, and yes, I'll say this again, worth the wait and all the work. I don't know if we'll get enough to freeze, but we'll certainly remember spring 2008 as our year of our own (finally) organic strawberries. :-)

I'll end with a blessing that could be either a Thanksgiving or springtime blessing. Today I think of it as a springtime blessing (praising those red, ripe strawberries) while looking forward to a good overall harvest and the Thanksgiving to come.

Thank God for home,
and crisp, fair weather,
and loving hearts
That meet together -
And red, ripe fruit
And golden grain -
And dear Thanksgiving
Come again!

~~Nancy Byrd Turner (1880-1971)

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

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