Archive | 10:56 am

Strawberry Season’s A-Comin.

22 Jul

It might be barely past mid-winter, but the days are getting longer and warmer and my strawberries know it. Despite the neglect they have been shown they are starting to flower. For weeks I’ve been trying to find time to clean the plants of their dead material, to divide the plants and replant the runners. I finally got the opportunity on Friday while the big kids were at daycare.

If you pay your strawberry plants absolutely no attention since Summer, this is what they will look like by winter. Covered in dead leaves and runners, they are desperately trying to flower but will never thrive.

I spent a few hours out there with scissors, snipping the dead material out close to the crown of the plant. Jodi describes the process really well here.

Some of the planters also needed new soil, so I repotted with potting mix enriched with rotted cow manure and divided the plants. Each crown generally needed dividing several times. I didn’t actually have enough polystyrene boxes to replant all of my plants, but after I was finished they looked like this:

I’ve had most success in the past when I’ve used weed matting around the plants, but I’ve run out, so sugar cane mulch will have to do this time.

The remaining plants I ended up planting out into Bed B. They probably wont get enough sun there, but the space is otherwise un-utilised, and maybe they will smother the creeping oxalis that is rapidly taking over – I can only hope.

After I was finished I was left with a fair quantity of runners, which I will give away to friends and family.

Now in the absence of my own strawberries I’ve been enjoying some amazing organic ones from Queensland lately.

Pim Mens grows them in the Glasshouse Mountains and despite the hefty price of her amazing fruit my fresh produce supplier sells 800g tubs of her second quality berries. These are actually as good as most 1st quality berries you buy in the supermarket. They are perfect for making jam.

Jodi is also my inspiration for jam making. She convinced me to shun pectin/jamsetta and embrace slightly runny jam. Seeing as I was always forgetting to buy the jamsetta, it was impeding my jam making anyway. Since reading Jodi’s advice I haven’t looked back.

Both times I’ve made strawberry jam I’ve done it in batches of a little over 1.4 kilos – the weight of the berries from two 800g tubs of seconds once trimmed of the stalks and bad bits. A testament to the quality of the ‘seconds’, huh?

I washed the berries in the sink, then cut them into large chunks.

I then placed the berries into a large pot with half the weight of the strawberries in sugar (approximately 700g) and the juice of a lemon. I stir it around to mix thoroughly and let it sit for 10 minutes to release juices. I then add in the 2 lemon halves and start heating the pot on medium heat, stirring regularly.

I then cook for 30-45 minutes, by which time the strawberries will be broken down but still somewhat chunky. At this stage the jam will still be slightly runny when cooled, but still fine to spread on toast etc. If you cook it longer then the fruit will start to lose its fresh flavour, but the jam will be more ‘set’.

Once you have cooked the jam, remove the lemon halves and ladle it into clean jars. I then close them and place into another large stock pot. I fill the stockpot so that the water comes up to the level 1 inch above the top of the jam jars, then bring to the boil and boil for 10 minutes. This will kill any nasties and allow you to safely store the jam in the cupboard until required.

Pretty, isn’t it? I assure you that it’s also delicious. Now I’m ready for my own berries – bring on Spring!