strawberry

Strawberry Season is Here!

And a very popular time for kids in the garden! Okay, at least for mine, anyway. And grandma. Don’t forget her. Exciting outings are usually her idea, and strawberry picking tops the list.

February and March are peak strawberry months in Florida. For those who live in and around the Central Florida area, the Plant City Strawberry Festival takes place from March 2-12th and includes headline country music stars, like Willie Nelson, the Gatlin Brothers, Rascal Flatts, 3 Doors Down and more! From the Strawberry Festival to our local Strawberry Farm, we love this time of year!

Sweetens school lunches.  “Peanut butter and jelly, Mom, and make it fresh strawberry!”

And afternoon snack time.  “Can we make strawberry smoothies?  Pleeeeeease.”

Of course we can!   If that’s how I get fresh strawberries in your belly, then that’s how we do it. (Beats the ice cream alternative.)

We in the gardenfrisk household used to grow our own strawberries, though for some reason, they never turned out quite as large and luscious as the ones at the farm.   Pesticides? Maybe. Commercial strength fertilizer? Could be. But since I don’t know for sure, let’s just say the kids and I have some work to do this season to compete with Farmer Jones down the road.

 

Pine needle mulch is the first key.  Strawberries prefer acid soil. As for food, I hope they like fish emulsion. It’s stinky, but seems effective. So long as we don’t drench them in the stuff while the fruit is blossoming, we should be good to go, right? You can grow them in containers and allowing them to climb on a trellis. They love it! For a complete review on the subject of growing strawberries, the Florida Strawberry Growers Association provides a fantastic educational download for kids and adults alike.

Another great use for strawberries is to make your own preserves. For easy instructions, check my recipe page. It’s great fun and could be the perfect spring gift!

If you’d like to find a farm near you (this is an international source, mind you), check this link.   In addition to strawberries, you’ll be able to locate blueberry farms, pumpkin patches–all kinds of stuff!

Too Many Strawberries?

 

What!  How could you have too many strawberries?

Oh.  You took the kids strawberry picking this weekend.  Yes, I understand.  They do grab berries at alarming rates, don’t they…

And now you’ve had your fill of strawberry shortcake, strawberry smoothies, strawberries and cream, strawberries on your corn flakes.   What else could you possibly do with a strawberry?

How about tossing some in your salad?  When combined with a mix of velvety soft buttercrunch and crispy firm spinach leaves from the garden — they make for the most delectable lunch. 

Looks good, doesn’t it?  It is.  The secret to this salad’s appeal is the striking  contrast between fresh tangy berry and sweet mild goat cheese.  It’s melt in your mouth good.  Check my recipe section for details!

First time I realized strawberries made a wonderful addition to salads was dinner at my cousin Nancy’s home.  She added nuts along with a variety of fresh ingredients, but for me, the strawberries were the main attraction. 

Of course, the joy of picking them ourselves added to the pleasure!  This little guy just looks like he’s having fun, doesn’t he?

He was, we were…  Picking your own fruits and veggies is great fun for the entire family.  To find a u-pick farm near you–check this great website

Then you too, may find yourself in the midst of a sea of berries.   Gorgeous, isn’t it?

Strawberries and onions

Strawberries and onions go together like sisters and brothers.  Great companions in the garden of life, but quite different from one another on many different levels.  My daughter takes to strawberries, my son to onions. 

He eats them raw actually, which is odd in itself — until you taste a homegrown onion fresh picked from the garden.  It’s nothing like the store bought kind!  Sweet and delicate and oh-so-fun-to-pick.

Must be a man thing.  My husband loves to slice them alongside his tomatoes with a little salt to boot.   Says he could eat them every day this way.  Which is a good thing, seeing as how I planted a hundred of these babies!  Literally.  I planned on braiding them for storage and hanging them for effect.  Looking forward to it actually, as I thought it would be kinda fun.  At this rate, I doubt I’ll get to try my first weave!

But that’s okay.  As long as the crew is eating fresh veggies, I’ll stick to braiding hair. 

As to my personal preference, I’m with my daughter on this one.   Gorgeous red strawberries hold the allure for me, especially when you can spy them on the vine and pluck to your heart’s desire.   Once again, there’s something about growing your own that seems to make them taste sweeter.  

Psychological?  Could be.   But then again, when I’m in the garden it’s all psychological!  

And physical.  

And emotional (when the mutiny over weeding pokes through the kid’s veneer of joy).  But i’t’s all fun!

Spring is in the air

I don’t know which I like better, harvest time or planting time.   I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love harvest time!   Reaping the reward for all my hard work?  That’s about as good as it gets when it comes to the garden.

Until you venture out after months of cold.  Okay, this is an exaggeration, but darned if it hasn’t felt like months of cold in Florida this past winter.  Locked up indoors all this time, you wander out to the garden and notice the buds sprouting anew.  Actually, it was the bird swooping down upon my largest blueberry plant that caught my attention, but what a lift to the spirit!   Especially after losing those gorgeous tomatoes to the freeze.   And the potatoes, the beans…   My peas are still touch and go, but let me tell you, when I first caught glimpse of my blueberry buds, followed by the emergence of their pink little blossoms… 

I went light-headed.   They survived!   Sound the alarms!   My blueberries made it through the winter.

Yes, I know.   They grow wild in North Carolina where the mercury dips a tad lower than Central Florida, but the exhilaration is the same, I assure you.   These sweet bushes had me convinced they were dead and gone–until these buds appeared.   And blossomed!  Yes ma’am, these pups will prosper, of that I’ll make certain.  I’ve already purchased my anti-bird netting having learned my lesson after those hungry varmints, er, I mean, beautiful winged neighbors of mine feasted on the sumptuous berries last summer.   Sure, I like to share, but not give away the farm!  There are limits! 

Limits these kids pay no mind to whatsoever.   As though it were open season on wild fruit.   Grrrr…   Even the kids shoo the beasts off!

Eh, hem.   Back to my original point.   I love springtime!   I’m back in the garden, tilling in my first batch of compost, affectionately referred to as black gold, something I’d sell, in kind, if I were able, but that’s another post.   For now, I’m eagerly anticipating the boost in growth I am certain to witness.   Once my seeds get a taste of black gold they will race for the skies, grow twice as big as before, three times —  maybe four!   My compost is so potent, I have sproutlings rising out of nowhere!  I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure this little jewel is not the Lima bean I planted yesterday.   After confusing this gem with the pole beans, I can IDENTIFY a Lima bean leaf when I see one.

The biggest reason to celebrate spring?   I can eat all the Girl Scout cookies I want.   Well, maybe once I’m able to fit into my jeans, again, but at this rate, with all the exercise I’m getting in the garden, it will happen in no time! 

You see?   Yet another reason to revel in spring!   Warm sun on your skin (not your face — you don’t want any more carving than absolutely necessary), the pump of your heart, the flow of blood tingling down through your tippy-toes…   Spring is the time to get active and I for one am whole-heartedly filled with the gusto.  Already planned for crop rotation.   A tricky endeavor for me, since I realized there was not quite the rhyme and reason to my fall planting I thought there was–but I’m good, nonetheless.  So what if I extend my garden a few feet to accommodate the corn and watermelon, the sweet potatoes and pumpkins.   I have the space, why not give em some elbow room?

And the sproutlings are too cute.   Nearly as cute as newborns and a whole host easier to care for, they are gobs of fun.  Kinda like a puppy.   So long as it’s not me chasing the sweet pea through the house, slipping on splatters of excitement as my heart races with each near miss of the china cabinet.   Oh, yes, those days are OVER.  These days are HERE!  Not that we parents don’t love every hair-raising minute, but I’m getting too old for that kind of thrill.  Remember, I’m on schedule to achieve centenarian status.   A bone fracture could take me out of the running.

As it stands, I plan to enjoy the moment.  Line my rows with fresh hay, tend to my babies while keeping a steadfast eye on their elders — the garlic should be nearing maturity, along with my sweet onions —  and focus on my aggressive planting schedule.   Do you know how many bean bushes you have to plant to produce a serving for four?  For one night? 

More than I believed.   Whew.   Tons more.  But this time, I’m ready.  

And excited!

P.S.  My cabbage have offspring!  Look at these kids.  Aren’t they darling?  Not only did their mama provide me with a bowl full of cole slaw, but the kids promise more of the same.  These are the result of scoring the base of the cabbage plant after cutting the mature head for consumption.  Yum.