Some flavours will stay with you forever and thanks to my parents I grew up with the intense sweet aroma of Senga Sengana, their favourite strawberry variety. The 600 strawberry varieties found today stem from five or six original wild species and differ greatly in shape, colour and taste. Typically, the larger the berry, the more water it contains; the smaller the berry, the better the flavour. Still, nothing comes close to the essence of wild strawberries, but if there ever was a reason to grow your own it is for the sweetest most nutritious strawberry. Once harvested it will not ripen and after 2 days of storage will lose a high percentage of Vitamins and polyphenol antioxidants.
Growing Sweet Strawberries
Strawberries, except for Alpine varieties, need a sunny position and to grow the sweetest strawberries your soil conditions have to be perfect: A fertile, well drained, ideally slightly acidic soil. I find they yield more and are sweeter when grown in compost-enriched soil. At least 8 hours of sunlight are essential for growing sweet strawberries. Overcrowded plants are more likely to produce small and often sour berries, that’s why I space them about 30cm apart. I grow some red and white Alpine strawberries in the polytunnel as border plants and most of my outdoor strawberries are in containers, which gives me more control over the soil and especially pests like birds and slugs. I keep 3-4 runners of the best plants each year and replace any plant older than 4 years.
Mieze Schindler is the one
If you haven’t tried Mieze Schindler, you haven’t lived. Named 1935 by breeder Otto Schindler after his wife it is the most popular strawberry across much of Europe because the flavour is out of this world, sweet and succulent, not watery or dull. The fruits are so soft and delicate that they are unsuitable for transport, so this variety has never even stepped foot inside a supermarket and you have to grow it yourself to experience this unmistakable aroma!
While my Senga Sengana is still the most popular variety in German gardens, Elsanta is the favourite amongst many Irish growers. It is not only loved for its flavour, it is extremely high in Vitamin C and like all strawberries fat free, sweet but low in sugar and low in calories.
The aphrodisiac power of strawberries
Touted as an aphrodisiac fruit since the times of ancient Rome, the strawberry was a symbol of Venus. People are going on about strawberries and whipped c ream or dipping strawberries in chocolate, but I remember the simplicity of a desert served up by Bernadette O’Shea of the late Truffles restaurant in Sligo: Fresh strawberries in season on our own goats quark!
You don’t have to go as far as Noma and serve “Strawberries and straw” (strawberries served with chamomile, elderflower and small discs of hay parfait), simply try the following:
Strawberry Guacamole with avocado, mint and lime juice.
Salad with rocket, hazelnuts, blue cheese and strawberries
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This is an taken from our Summer 2015 issue. Subscribe here to have the autumn issue and the following three delivered direct to your door.