Strawberries and Garlic

Don't worry, this isn't a post with a recipe using those two ingredients. It's a gardening update!

This has been a great year for growing strawberries in my edible front yard garden. The bounty I picked this morning is shown in the photo. Do you grow strawberries? If not, you should. They grow from Florida (February harvest time) to New Hampshire (July harvests) as perennials. Here in Tennessee, the month of May is my banner season for these juicy sweet berries.

My second favorite berry to grow, strawberries take just a bit more care than my favorite, blueberries. I find the biggest challenge is to keep the beds from getting too crowded with all the "baby" plants which the mature strawberry plants send out to root. When the weather is not too rainy, as has been the case here recently, the berries ripen without getting moldy or soft or dirty.

Here are ten of the many reasons I love growing my own strawberries:
  1. freshly picked strawberries have much more flavor than store-bought
  2. when you grow your own, you can wait to harvest them when they are fully ripened on the plants; those you buy are usually harvest a bit early, before the full flavor develops
  3. they are great to eat plain, added to fruit or veggie salads, topped with Greek yogurt, chopped and added to breakfast granola, chopped and used over a pie crust with a cream filling OR on shortcakes and topped with whipped cream (I did a variation on brownies last week), baked into quick bread, muffins, or pie.
  4. strawberries freeze well (wash, dry, and remove the stem end), either whole or sliced
  5. frozen or fresh strawberries are delicious in smoothies
  6. harvesting is spread over several weeks, so it's not overwhelming
  7. new baby plants are constantly produced, so you can start new beds, and - after a few years - replace the mature plants… free!
  8. non-organic commercially grown strawberries are highly likely to have pesticide residue (strawberries are the most chemically intensive crop grown in California) 
  9. in my garden, organically grown strawberry plants are not prone to diseases or insect infestations
  10. nutritionally, strawberries have high levels of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins
There's nothing quite like biting into a just-picked bright red strawberry still warm from the sun! By the way, if you live near me or will be visiting and you want to start your own strawberry patch, please let me know and I'll share my plants with you - that's the fun of gardening! Plant some between now and fall, and you can start harvesting some next spring.

And from the garlic patch….

My fall planting of garlic cloves has resulted in a patch of greenery. Plants of the hardneck varieties are sending up the tall, curled garlic "scape." Gourmet cooks cut off this top stem when it first begins to grow and is most tender, adding it to stir-fries and other dishes for garlic flavor with a unique decorative touch. Some garlic growers cut the scape off, so the plant will put its energy into the root. I love to cut them and use 3 or 5 in a flower arrangement, adding an unusual accent. Others use the scape as a ripeness indicator - when it unfurls and stands up straight, the garlic is said to be ready to harvest. Left on the plant, the scape will mature to form small garlic bulbs. These can be dried and planted, but will take more than a year to grow into a whole clove. My garlic is generally ready to harvest in June-July. Good thing, because I am nearly out of all the garlic I dried, froze, and otherwise preserved from last year's harvest. Garlic is even easier to grow than strawberries, so find a garden patch and plan to plant garlic this fall.

By the way, sorry for my lack of posts recently on this blog. My "day job" (commercial artist/designer) has been keeping me so busy, along with my many other interests and pursuits. I hardly have time to garden or cook, not to mention writing about it!