July in the Market Garden – Our Organic Strawberries Are Here!
The sun is finally shining so we thought we would touch base with Saskia, a key member of our Market Garden team, to talk about all things organic strawberries!
Our organic strawberries are here and after our first Pick Your Own Saturday I thought it was about time to start broadcasting about them!
We’ve been picking our delicious red beauties for the Daylesford kitchens and farmshops since the second week of June. Initially it was a real race against time to get there before the crows or the slugs but fortunately with the abundance that we now have, myself and my fellow pickers are finding plenty for our punnets.
Our strawberry season usually lasts between four to six weeks, weather dependant, with the earliest strawberries to appear being the Christine and Honeoye followed closely by the Hapil, Pegasus, Alice, Symphony, Fenella and Sophie varieties. This carefully selected combination provides us with a range of early, mid and late fruiting successions in order to make the most out of the strawberry season and to satisfy the demand for the fruit from our kitchens and shops.
Currently we have around 5,000 strawberry plants which occupy about an acre of the Market Garden. Once planted, they will stay in place for a full three seasons and enable us to achieve our harvest target of between 2 – 3 tonnes each summer.
Despite it being so wet over the past few weeks, in my opinion strawberries mean that summer has officially arrived and I consider them to be a most wonderful crop. They need strong sun to fully ripen and a red strawberry is a sign of heat. In fact evidence suggests that consuming strawberries can naturally protect your skin from the sun. They contain a powerful combination of antioxidants and vitamin C, which both help protect from sun damage and direct contact of strawberries onto the skin can dramatically help to sooth any sunburn. The majority of the preparation work such as weeding, removing the runners and de-crowning the plants, in order to get larger, tastier fruit, is done over the winter when we have more time on our hands.
This month I attended my first Future Growers seminar weekend and I learnt a lot about the importance of healthy soil, the practical ways of looking after it and methods to enrich its fertility. Growing strawberries is a very good example of this. The pathways on either side of each row are sown with Clover. Clover is classified as a green manure, which are plants that are grown specifically to benefit the soil, replacing nutrients, improving soil structure and increasing organic matter content. So not only do we have three seasons of delicious, health beneficial fruits but also two thirds of each strawberry patch is green manure so when it is time to cultivate the ground we are left with an area of very healthy, fertile soil.
Strawberries are the first fruit to ripen after the sweetness scarcity of the winter months. They are delicious and refreshing and I welcome their abundant appearance and keep my fingers crossed for a successful season!
WORKING AT DAYLESFORD
If Saskia’s job here at Daylesford is something that interests you, please visit our Careers page for details on vacancies currently available in both the Cotswolds and London.