The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Five gallons of strawberries


Usually, we have three strawberry varieties in the garden --- early, midseason, and late.  I hated the late variety we tried last year (Allstar), though, so I ripped it out and didn't replace it with a new late variety (Sparkle) until this spring.  Instead, I just increased my plantings of the early and midseason varieties.

That sounded like a good idea at the time, but then the peak harvest came on...all at once.  Monday, I filled the dehydrator with two gallons of fruits and we ate perhaps another half gallon.  Tuesday was the same, but it became clear the strawberries needed to get picked even faster.  So I asked Mark to get me low-sugar pectin at the grocery store, invited one of our young helpers over as a picker, and planned for Wednesday to be strawberry day.

Bowl of strawberries

Strawberry leaf spotBefore I regale you with what we did with Wednesday's five gallons of strawberries, I should give you the bad news.  This spring's cool, wet conditions were perfect for fungal spread, and the many of the Honeoye plants came down with strawberry leaf spot (Mycosphaerella
fragariae).  This fungus causes a decline in vigor, which means the fruits aren't as sweet and are more prone to rotting.  My solution is to cut out the rotten bits, add more honey than usual when making fruit leather, and mix in the virtually-untouched and still-very-sweet Ozark Beauties.  (Think of this as like making cider --- a combination of varieties leads to a fuller-bodied taste.)

Preparing for
strawberry leather

Leaf spot aside, there were still plenty of fruits to preserve for the winter.  I filled the dehydrator once, put aside enough to fill it again before bed, then moved on to a double recipe of strawberry freezer jam.

Strawberry freezer

We've already preserved more strawberries this week than all of last year, and I figure we'll need at least one more massive strawberry day to use up the rest.

Chickens eating
strawberry tops

Even the chickens were happy.  With all of the rotten strawberries and tops, I had to split a gallon of waste between three flocks to ensure it would all get eaten.  "No problem!" our Leghorn pullets declared.  "We can clean that up lickety-split!"

Our chicken waterer provides refreshing drinks of clean water after our birds are done eating up our kitchen scraps.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Just wondering, why not put the perserves in jars and water bath? Wouldn't that free up freezer space? Or does freezer perserves taste better.? Might have to try it.
Comment by Donna Thu Jun 6 09:05:08 2013

Donna --- Good question! I like to make freezer jam instead because you don't have to cook the berries, so you get more of the berry taste. We don't make much jam, so we don't mind using up about 0.75 gallons worth of space for it.

The leather also wouldn't have to go in the freezer, but since it becomes so small (and lets me keep it for a year instead of a couple of months), I stick that in there too.

Comment by anna Thu Jun 6 13:08:53 2013
Our strawberry Wednesday was markedly less exciting than yours, but your little June-bearers from years ago are still chugging along and the children are fighting over them. :-)
Comment by Brandy Thu Jun 6 14:11:33 2013
Just curious if you know any tricks to keeping grass out of the strawberries. I had a beautiful large patch with 4 different varieties, one of them being Honeoye. I gave up due to the grass becoming too overwhelming.
Comment by Elie Thu Jun 6 18:35:09 2013
How many square feet of berry space do you have? I'm trying to figure out how much space I should allot to strawberries.
Comment by Emily Thu Jun 6 20:30:00 2013

Elie --- No tricks, unfortunately, just obsessive hand-weeding and mulching.

Emily --- I'd say we have roughly 250 square feet of strawberries. That would be much more realistic if some of them were a late variety the way they are most years, which would spread the harvest out. If you're not a strawberry-aholic like me, you might want to start with about 50 square feet.

Comment by anna Thu Jun 6 21:11:55 2013
Thanks for the reply, its good to know I'm not crazy. You have just confirmed my decision not to mess with strawberries until life is less crazy. I really love getting the berries...
Comment by Elie Fri Jun 7 01:12:10 2013

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