Espionage most likely isn't what comes to mind when selecting a punnet of sweet yet tart strawberries at the greengrocer's. Yet it was the furtive act of a French spy, Amédée-François Frézier, to which we owe the luxuriously large size of today's strawberries.
In the early eighteenth century, the French government sent this spy of many skills to South America to gather intelligence about Spanish fortifications for future attacks. His assignment also included recording local flora and fauna.
The name Frézier is related to the French word fraise for strawberry. Frézier's discovery of the large berries of the Chilean strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) seems serendipitous considering that he owed his last name to a gift of strawberries (most likely the wild woodland strawberries Fragaria vesca) given by his ancestor Julius de Berry to France's King Charles the Simple in 916.
It's said that King Charles loved the berries so much that he reciprocated with a gift -- a coat of arms with three strawberries -- that eventually changed the family name to Frézier.
By the time the French began growing woodland strawberries in the 1300s, the berries already had a history of cultivation reaching back to ancient Persia. Then the more cold-tolerant Virginia strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) arrived in Europe from the New World in the late 1500s.
Yet it wasn't until Frézier slipped the Chilean strawberry into France and it accidentally crossed with the Virginia species that ahorticultural star was born -- Fragaria ananassa, the garden strawberry.
Types of Garden Strawberries
When buying strawberries, it helps to know the three main types: June bearing, everbearing and day neutral. Harvest time is from May through June and depends on the variety. Everbearing types, such as woodland strawberries, produce small fruit in spring and again in late summer or fall. Day Neutral strawberries have the smallest berries -- perhaps an inch long - - but the longest fruiting season when temperatures are between about 2ºC (35ºF) and 29ºC (85ºF).
June-bearing strawberries, such as the ones raised by Farmer Gracy, have the largest berries and produce fruit for about 14 days. Sometimes referred to as biennials, strawberries often don't produce fruit during their first season unless planted in autumn (please see the section on cultivation below).
Delicious A+ June-Bearers
At Farmer Gracy, all our strawberries are A+ varieties. They have vigorous foliage and flavorful fruits. All are large except for our cute Pineberries and Raspy Berries.
With an A+ rating, you can expect harvests for three to four consecutive growing seasons if a strawberry plant's needs are met for full sun, plentiful water and loamy garden soil. Of course, many varieties reproduce prodigiously by underground stolons for additional years of harvest.
In general, strawberry plants are hardy, which means they have roots that survive winter cold to grow again the following season. Our June-bearing plants are categorized as early-, mid- or late-season varieties depending on when they yield fruit.
The following list provides details about our varieties and organizes them from earliest to latest harvest:
VERY EARLY SEASON
Harvest begins about May 20
Strawberry Lambada ↑
- Large red berries
- Very sweet with strong aroma
- Super hardy
Harvest begins about June 1
Strawberry Korona ↑
- Large, intensely red berries
- Sweet with strong aroma
- Handles a bit of partial shade
Harvest begins about June 10
Strawberry Maxim ↑
- Berries big as small peaches
- Mildly sweet and aromatic
- Hybrid mother plant is Fragaria gorella
Strawberry Pineberry ↑
- Tiny white berries with red seeds
- Tastes like pineapple
- Lower yield than our other varieties
Strawberry Cherry Berry ↑
- Large, super sweet berries
- High yield late mid-season producer
- Great in ground or in patio containers
Harvest begins late June
Strawberry Senga Sengana ↑
- Spherical, juicy, red berries
- Large berries become smaller as season progresses
- Long shelf life
Strawberry Strasberry ↑
- Small, dark red, spherical berries
- Sweet with delicious aroma
- Raspberry-like appearance due to deep seeds
Autumn is an excellent time to prepare a strawberry bed's soil for spring planting. The addition of plentiful organic material, such as compost, leaves and straw, helps create loose, loamy garden soil. It improves soil chemistry, aeration and wiggle room for excellent root and foliage growth.
In spring, plant strawberries after danger of frost has passed and the ground has thawed but isn't soggy. Planting on a cloudy day or late in the afternoon is best to keep foliage from wilting. Place a plant so its roots are about an inch underground but its crown is just above the soil's surface.
Keep in mind that strawberries usually need to be watered daily. When temperatures rise, and you become frustrated by twice-daily watering, be patient with these gifts from Mother Nature. They make life sweeter.
Answers to Your Questions
At Farmer Gracy, we want to make your gardening life sweeter. Please contact us if you have any questions about strawberries or any of the plants you see on our website.