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!

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10 Responses to “Strawberry Season’s A-Comin.”

  1. Lilian July 22, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    “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.”

    That’d be me 😦 I keep wanting to get into it to do it but keep finding other projects in the garden to do. I hope I get to them soon…

    • L from 500m2 in Sydney July 23, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

      I understand. It actually takes a lot more time that you think. That’s why I’d been putting it off too.

  2. Louise July 22, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    Oh yum. Now you have inspired me. I hadn’t ever really bothered with growing strawberries, perhaps mistakenly believing that they never really taste that good when grown in Sydney’s climate. But maybe I should change my mind.

    That jar of strawberry jam positively glows, what beautiful photo.

  3. Daphne July 22, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    I made pectin free strawberry jam this year. It doesn’t have to be runny. Mine is actually set a bit more than I like. If you use some underripe berries they have a lot of natural pectin. You only need a small handful of the partially greens ones to make it set very well.

    • L from 500m2 in Sydney July 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

      The first batch I made was more set, and you’re right – it did have more green ones in it.

  4. Mrs Bok July 22, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

    Totally inspiring!! Wish I’d read this earlier today I’d have been out there trimming my strawberries too!

    • L from 500m2 in Sydney July 23, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

      Thanks Mrs Bok. Do try to make time for it – I’m amazed at the difference it makes. Last year a good clean up prompted my strawberries to immediately send out a further flush of fruit.

  5. Liz July 23, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    Do you know I’ve never bothered to do the second boiling part, I steralise the jars and lids and trust that the jam kills off everything anyway. Am I wrong?

    • L from 500m2 in Sydney July 23, 2012 at 9:39 pm #

      I don’t think you’re wrong – just another way. I don’t sterilise the jars initially, just make sure they are clean.

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