Monday, January 18, 2010

Winter Strawberries

True winter strawberries (rather than those imported from a warmer clime) are a rare and precious commodity. They look pretty ordinary, but they are the most amazingly sweet strawberries we have ever tasted.

When we took the Tanaka Farms CSA family day tour, Glenn Tanaka told us that the first crop of strawberries in the season are his favorite.  They plant strawberries in October/November.  By the end of December, the first strawberries ripen.  Winter berries are the smallest and sweetest strawberries the plant will ever produce.

They mature more slowly due to the cold weather and shorter days.  There are only a few, not enough for commercial harvest. Glenn says he and the rest of the TF family love to walk the fields then, searching for strawberries under the leaves and eating them right away.

By January, there are a bit more--enough to share with the CSA families.  Last week, we received two pints of these ambrosial berries in our CSA box.  In February-March, when the days get warmer and longer, the plants go into full-scale production.  They can pick the plants every few days because the berries grow and ripen so quickly.  They will also be bigger, but they will never be as sweet and precious as those early season jewels.

Sadly, the heavy rains this week may damage the strawberry plants.  They need just the right amount of rain and this may be too much.  Mildew can set in on strawberry plants if there isn't sufficient sunshine and wind to dry the plants out between waterings.

We hope for more winter strawberries in this week's box, but we are prepared to be disappointed.  The ones from South America or greenhouses sold in the supermarkets are not the same.

The contents of the January 14 box:
  • 2 pints of unbelievably sweet strawberries
  • 1 head of butter lettuce
  • 1 bunch of carrots
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 bunch of broccoli
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 1 bunch of beets
  • 1 bag of small yellow onions

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