When it comes to strawberries, I’ve been a yoyo gardener for years. They do come under the heading of “one more thing,” and the Northeast is gratifyingly full of pick your own farms that grow decent varieties. Result: the patch languishes and by and by I take it out. Then I taste something delicious, or write a story and remember how easy they are to grow. Next thing you know, I’m out there setting a small bed – just enough to, you know, make sure there are enough to nibble on.

Any more, all we grow is Tristar, best tasting of the day neutrals, varieties that can bear from spring to fall because they don’t depend on day length to trigger flowering. ( This year I was going to try Everest, supposedly even better. But by the time I got around to ordering, they were all sold out…

Many strawberry connoisseurs feel about day neutrals the way I feel about “early” tomatoes, namely: ” so what? I’d rather just eat great ones in season and let it go at that.” But early tomatoes are always followed by more wonderful tomatoes, whereas day neutral strawberries just keep coming, long after the spring wonderfuls are gone. With day neutrals, the smallish spring crop starts a season that runs through summer, peaks in early fall, then continues at a modest pace until stopped by hard frost.

That said, the fussbudgets are right about flavor – the tastiest action is all in old fashioned June bearers, original fruit of the 18th century cross between tiny, super sweet North American Fragaria virginiana and bland but big F. chiloensis, from the continent to the south.

There are several hundred named June bearers, though you’d never know it by shopping – whether for fruit OR for plants. Strawberries are still 2 or 3 decades behind tomatoes in the heirloom awareness/ variety savvy department.

Yet – let’s all fall over with surprise – there are umptillion kinds of home garden strawberries that beat out most commercial fruit, for the usual home garden reasons: no need for durability, no need to turn red before ripening, no need to whap out large crops all at once to cut down on field labor…

June bearers that have been delicious for us include ‘Northeaster’, somewhat shy bearing but very flavorful; ‘Fairfax’, which spoils in less than a day from the plant – too juicy! – and is close to wild strawberries for the fragaria part, and good old fashioned ‘Sparkle’, on the small side but otherwise yummy and grown by several pick your owns, the fact that frees us to focus on Tristar.

For more – far far more – about garden strawberries, check out the excellent strawberry site put up by let’s hear it for a GOOD use of tax dollars! the National Agricultural Library

I get my plants from Nourse Farms
Strawberries in the kitchen to come – after they’re better in market.

Meanwhile, possibly under the influence of the buzz about “Feeding Desire” the Cooper-Hewitt’s new utensil show (new show, old utensils), I started hankering after an – I confess, second – silver berry spoon, for the ultimate in dishing ’em out. On eBay: 12089 “strawberry” items; 542 in home daécor; 1 – one! – silver berry spoon. At google: 11,600 responses to a request for “silver berry spoon.” In the garden, fortunately for my budget: 11,600 things that need planting/weeding/mulching… and picking. The asparagus is up! (while you’re cruising the Victorian silverware, get a load of all those nifty asparagus tongs)

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  • Leslie Said,

    Its good to see someone else wishy washy about strawberries. I love the fruit but my plants are a mess.

    My first attempt I mixed varieties – and planted WAY too many. I think I will rip them out as soon as they are done this year and buy all one type next year.

    Have you done June-Bearing, Everbearing or Day Neutral?

  • leslie Said,

    Hi Leslie,

    Sorry to hear your plants are a mess — sounds like you may have put them too close together; the June bearers especially make lots of runners with baby plants at the end, so it doesn’t take long for them to create overcrowded mats.

    In answer to your question: I’ve grown all 3 kinds — plus some of the little ones, about which more before long. Now have only the day neutrals, because they bear for such a long time, and some fraises de bois, for their beauty and general wow factor more than their deliciousness. Also try to keep the patches small – much easier to care for /protect from birds and chipmunks/ keep them picked when they’re more a token than a serious crop.

    On the other hand, I’m fortunate to live where wild strawberries are abundant, and as they are the very best they make me a bit cranky about all the others.

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