It’s been my dream for more than a decade to grow a nice strawberry patch, ever since the first year I made homemade strawberry jam and my family loved it so much that store bought strawberry jam was no-longer welcome in our home. Since growing our own berries would lower the cost involved in making homemade jam, we decided to put in a strawberry patch. We started with a few plants in a raised bed, and over the next several years made several strawberry beds in our yard. We never yielded more than a few handfuls of small berries, so every June, when the strawberries were ripe, I would go to one of our local strawberry farms and buy at least 2 (10 quart) flats of fresh, Michigan grown strawberries and make most of them into jam.
When we bought the farm in 2011, having a nice strawberry patch was still one of my dreams. After we got the garden area worked up, where I would plant perennial plants, I moved some of my strawberry plants from the house to the farm. We planted, mulched and watered the plants and watched them take root, but within a few weeks tragedy struck. The deer discovered our strawberry patch. The plants were being eaten and some even dug up. It wasn’t long before the strawberry patch was completely annihilated. I have to admit that I was, and still am, baffled by the fact that wild strawberries grow all over the farm and go completely untouched by the deer, yet the strawberry plants we put in were devoured.
Since fencing is our best option to protect our food against deer, in the fall of 2014 the area, known as garden number 2, was fenced in. The following spring we planted strawberry crowns. I think we put in about 30 of them. Since the deer were now denied access to the area the plants were able to develop and grow. Being their first year we saw only a few blossoms that developed into small berries before the plants began making runners. We left all the runners in tact and our two rows of strawberries became one big strawberry patch.
This spring the plants were quick to green up and they had loads of blossoms. We picked our first, and probably our biggest, berry on June 5th. It was big, beautiful and oh so sweet.
A few days later we picked about two quarts, and then the daily picking became a two person job. For about a week and a half we picked daily with each picking yielding between 4 and 10 quarts. Since I didn’t have time to make jam I decided to freeze the berries.
After washing and cutting the stems I let them dry on a paper towel.
I then put them on trays in the freezer to freeze them individually before putting them in quart size freezer bags.
I made strawberry shortcake for dessert. The strawberries were so good they did not need added sugar, but the shortcake was horrible so I won’t share the recipe.
After I had about 30+ quarts in the freezer my husband suggested dehydrating some.
It took about 4 quarts to fill up my nine tray dehydrator.
It took less than 24 hours to dehydrate them.
The nearly 4 quarts turned into less than a quart when dried. These sweet little strawberry chips are delicious on their own, but they can be added to my morning oatmeal, cooked into pancakes, muffins or sweet breads, added to yogurt, or mixed into a trail mix.
Since the berries were still coming I decided to make my jam. I made 20 pints of strawberry jam.
The following day I called two of my sisters who I knew were planning on making jam as well. For about the next 5 days they took turns getting the berries we picked the night before. I think they each ended up with between 12 and 15 quarts of berries.
One of my sisters told sent me a recipe for strawberry lemonade concentrate that she had made and really liked, so yesterday, when the weather had cooled, I canned 7 1/2 quarts of it. Here is the link for the recipe. http://www.sbcanning.com/2012/04/strawberries-and-summer-strawberry.html?m=1 (for some reason my computer will not allow me to put the hyperlink in but if you are curious you can copy and paste the address)
We are so thrilled and thankful for a bountiful strawberry harvest this year.
Coincidently, or not, the day after we did our last large strawberry picking we picked our first ripe blueberry.