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The Daily Guide - Waynesville, MO
  • Gardening to Distraction: Ode to strawberries

  • Finding the first ripe strawberries in my garden inspires me to think about cleaning out the freezer to store extra bounty for winter treats. Huge assumption, really, because there rarely is any, even without my brother around.
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  • Finding the first ripe strawberries in my garden inspires me to think about cleaning out the freezer to store extra bounty for winter treats. Huge assumption, really, because there rarely is any, even without my brother around.
    A few years ago, during a family reunion, my sisters-in-law and I were in the kitchen planning to make fresh strawberry pies.
    “That’s a waste of perfectly good pie crust,” my brother, David, said, grinning, as he absconded with the bowl of washed, de-leaved, locally-grown, hand-picked strawberries.
    Box turtles in my garden are also on strawberry time. About two weeks ago, I started to find turtles walking my garden paths deceptively close to strawberry plants I use as borders. How they know when berries are ripe is beyond me, but I can tell who has been through when I find bites taken out of berries.
    When I first started gardening in Missouri, I used tiny wild Missouri strawberries as border plants. Today I have several wonderful patches that renew themselves. Those berries are the size of a small fingertip and very tasty. Takes a little work to get a mouthful but they are well worth the effort.
    To get as many strawberries as possible throughout the growing season, I plant day-neutral strawberries, such as Tribute. Day-neutral strawberries keep blooming and bearing fruit regardless of how much light they get. Assuming turtles don’t eat all of them, day-neutral strawberries keep bearing into early winter.
    North American Indians cultivated strawberries back to the 1600s, maybe even earlier.  Some of the historic literature suggests strawberries may have originated in Italy.
    Today, more than 25,000 acres of strawberries are planted in California each year. On average, each acre produces about 21 tons of strawberries. The state, which generates about 80 percent of all strawberries nationwide, produces one billion pounds of strawberries a year.
    The one issue with mass-produced strawberries is that a preservative fungicide is sprayed on berries before they are shipped. If you are getting strawberries from California, as I sometimes do, make sure to wash them well to remove the preservative.
    Once I rinse them, the berries tend to quickly age so wash prior to using or you may think you picked up a bad batch of strawberries.
    When my brothers and I were out west for a relative’s funeral a few years ago, we literally followed a strawberry truck back to the farm and bought several flats of strawberries for “munching.” We ended up with unsprayed fruit so it didn’t keep long so we were "forced" to eat berries at every meal.
    We mashed berries and spread them over waffles. We blended the mash with banana and ice for morning breakfast smoothies, and made a vinaigrette with honey for salads.
    Page 2 of 2 - The following is one of my all-time favorite vinaigrette recipes. It combines two ingredients I now can provide directly from my garden, strawberries and honey.
    Strawberry Honey
    Vinaigrette
    3 large strawberries
    1/4 cup honey
    1/4 cup red wine vinegar
    1/4 cup olive oil
    Whisk or blend together. Serve on salads, use as a chicken marinade, drizzle over steamed vegetables…so good!
    Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener sharing gardening tips in a changing climate. Copyright 2014 used with permission by Rolla Daily News and Waynesville Daily Guide. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at chargardens@gmail.com.

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