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

Sparkle strawberries

Sparkle strawberry plant
Last spring, we planted some Sparkle strawberries to replace the late-season variety we hated (Allstar), which in turn had replaced the mediocre late-season variety Jewel.  Time for a rundown on the pros and cons of this new type of strawberry!

As you can see from the photo above, one of the major advantages of Sparkle is that the plants are very productive.  I grow strawberries in the hill system, removing all runners and giving the plants plenty of space, so I always get lots of big berries from each plant.  But our Sparkle planting takes the cake in terms of pure quantity of fruit!  (The plants produced just as many runners as berries, though, so if you hate plucking runners, this might not be the variety for you.)

Taste is another major advantage.  Sparkle is one of the sweetest strawberries I've ever tasted, and although it lacks the fuller-bodied flavor of Honeoye, it compares favorably with Ozark Beauty.  (You can read more about flavor of the strawberry varieties we've tried here.)  Mark says he likes Sparkle even better than our other varieties, while I rank it on the same level.

Hollow strawberry center

Where did the Sparkle berries fail?  Well, the plants don't really seem to be a late-season variety, despite being listed as such on Nourse Farms website.  The Sparkles are ripening up in the mid-season, just a hair behind the first Ozark Beauties, which means that the variety won't extend our strawberry season as late into the summer as I'd hoped.  (Actually, as I go look at Nourse Farms' site, I see that Sparkle is now listed as "late midseason" instead of "late season."  Not sure if they changed the site or if I just made a mistake when researching.)  Maybe next year I'll consider adding another variety that is a truly late-producer.

Less importantly (at least to me), Sparkle berries are so soft and luscious that it's hard to even pick them off the vine without damaging the berries.  I guess that's really only a disadvantage to Mark since I often eat damaged berries as I pick rather than risking them going bad during the two minute journey into the house.  Gotta protect those berries....

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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 wanted to say Hi. I am finally caught up after reading all your archives over the last six months or so. Really great collection of information you've got here. Keep up the good work.

Comment by Drew Fri May 30 11:15:21 2014
....considered doing an ebook just on strawberries? I'd pay for a 50 p. rundown on varieties, propagation, strategies for full-season harvesting, favorite uses and recipes, etc. It seems like strawberries are a reoccurring obsession of yours, and one that I always am glad to read more about!
Comment by Stephen Fri May 30 12:17:15 2014

Drew --- Thanks for reading!

Stephen --- I actually cover some of that in Weekend Homesteader: February, but it probably could benefit from being its own ebook. One of these days! My list of ebooks to get written always seems to get longer rather than shorter. :-) (Also, I'm glad to hear my strawberry obsession is enjoyed rather than annoying....)

Comment by anna Fri May 30 14:56:20 2014
I am very happy to hear this, as we just put in 250 Sparkle strawberries. We use the matted row method to grow them, so I am quite happy about the runners! We also added 250 Seascape...any experience with those?
Comment by Robert Sat May 31 08:30:16 2014
Robert --- I haven't tried Seascape but will be curious to hear how they do for you. The late variety I was intrigued by (but which was sold out this year) is Malwina --- maybe next year! I'll also be interested to hear if the softness of Sparkle berries makes them too tough to harvest on your farm scale.
Comment by anna Sat May 31 09:24:43 2014

As it turns out, the other variety we currently have is Earliglow, not seascape (we ripped that one out last year due to productivity issues and replaced with the earliglow this year...I had it backwards...whoops!...good thing for good records! ).

I too will be interested in the ease of picking on such a large scale. I actually ordered 250 earliglow (for CSA members), and 25 sparkle for my personal collection. However, the person filling the order accidently sent 250 of each! I'm not one to waste, so we found an additional 500 ft of garden row to plant the extras. Hopefully our drier climate and well draining soil will firm the berries up a bit. Here's to hoping, anyway. I also have a few Italian Alpine that I started from seed 2 years ago that should produce this year as well. I'll shoot you an email with my thoughts of each after tasting.

Comment by Robert Sat May 31 23:56:15 2014

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