Growing your own strawberries

If you are concerned about the probability of toxic chemicals on your fruit, or the damage that cancerous chemicals will cause to our environment and the people who grow and pick the foods on these mega farms, one thing you can do is learn to grow your own.

Strawberries are one of the most container-friendly plants, making them pretty perfect for even tiny patio gardens. You can even grow them in hanging bags, or DIY topsy-turvy planters.

They like well drained soil with lots of organic matter. If you’re planting them in a bed, leave 10 or so inches between plants so they can spread. If you’re growing them hanging, this isn’t as important.
One mistake I made: There are TWO kinds of strawberries. “June” and “Everbearing”. If you plant June, you won’t get a crop the first year, so don’t cry thinking you did something totally wrong! Everbearing will bear fruit the first year, and sometimes right up until frost, but they wear out a little more quickly.

Put your plants somewhere where they can get at least a half-day’s worth of good sunlight, keep them nicely watered, and then enjoy the “fruits” of your labor all summer long.
If you’d like a slightly more technical explanation of growing these plants, check out this article from the backyard gardener.

Once you get a crop, remember strawberries freeze well, and are also one of the easiest fruits to make jams from.

Here’s one of my favorite recipes, only slightly variated from one in Nigella Lawson’s book “How to be a Domestic Goddess”.

Put a saucer into the freezer.

3 parts strawberries, cut in half
2 parts sugar
a couple tablespoons lemon juice
dash balsamic vinegar per cup of fruit.

Mix it all together in the biggest pan you have, and then bring it to a boil. Let it boil for about 5 minutes, then sneak a tiny drop out with a spoon and drop it onto the saucer you had in the freezer. See if it thickens. If it doesn’t, keep boiling and repeat test every minute. Once it does thicken, pull it all off the heat and ladle it into prepared canning jars. Wipe the lids before sealing, then turn the jars over onto a thick towel. Let the jars rest for at least 12 hours. (You’ll hear the lids pop as they seal. This is good.)

If a jar didn’t seal properly, don’t fret, just store it in the fridge and eat it first. (or, you could prepare a water bath, boil the submerged jar for 20 minutes and repeat the upside down part…)


creative commons flickr photo from kodamakitty


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