A World Without Ag Wednesdays: Strawberries

For as long as I can remember, the start of summer could be marked with delicious, red strawberries. As a child, it was a scavenger hunt trying to find the red ones ready to be picked in the field. There is nothing quite like biting into a ripe strawberry. Of course, this would be in no way possible, if it weren’t for farmers, both large and small, growing strawberries.

History

Strawberries are native to North America, as well as other regions. According to the University of Vermont, strawberries were eaten and referred to as far back as Roman times; however, they were not very popular because they were small and lacked the flavor that today’s strawberries have. They were used more for ornamental purposes. It wasn’t until the 1300’s that strawberries began to be cultivated in Europe. It took many years, and many varieties of strawberries from all around the world to create a fruit that is as popular as it is today. America’s strawberries gave hardiness, and Chilean strawberries gave size. While there were some accidental crosses, the first planned cross of strawberries occurred in Cambridge, MA by nurseryman, Charles Hovey. This strawberry was the start of most modern varieties. Throughout history, various people created different strawberry hybrids to have more vigor and resist disease. Once a lot of strawberry breeding and discovering had been done, it didn’t take long for strawberries to become one of the number one fruits in American households.

Strawberries by the Number

strawberry stat NEW

  • 36 billion pounds of strawberries were produced in 2012
  • 94% of American households consume strawberries
  • California (the largest producer of strawberries) had 38,000 acres of strawberries in 2012, accounting for 75% of the nation’s strawberry crops

Growing and Producing Strawberries

There are typically two major types of strawberry farms–commercial and pick-your-own strawberry farms; however, the process of growing strawberries is relatively the same for both, just on different scales.

Although strawberries are perennial plants (come back every year) , farmers often treat them as annuals so that they can better maintain and prepare the land for them. To prepare the ground for strawberries, the land is plowed and mounded into flat rows where drip tape and black or white plastic are laid down on top of the rows. The drip tape will be used to water the plants, and the plastic helps with moisture, and temperatures, especially during the winter months when the majority of strawberries are planted. All this is done with a special piece of equipment. After the plastic has been laid, another piece of equipment is used to punch holes in the plastic for plants to go in the holes. It is important to note, that not every farm does things the same way. Some farms plant a green strawberry plant, while others plant the roots. In other cases, the rows are not covered in plastic, but are always mounded to help with moisture. There is also various equipment that is used depending on the scale of the farm. Here are two videos that show two varieties of strawberries being planted in two different ways on the same farm.

Pretty cool, huh? Throughout the winter months, the plants are fertilized and cared for by the farmers. The plants are even tested to determine if they are getting enough nutrients. Come March, most varieties of strawberry plants start to bloom. strawberries have to be picked daily because they ripen quickly, even on commercial farms. The picking season typically runs from April to June, and it takes 60-75 workers to keep 1 million strawberry plants picked. Of course, the pick-your-own strawberry farms, you are the one who picks the strawberries. There are also robots that have been developed to pick strawberries, but only if they are a certain level of red. Amazing! If you are curious how the large farms pick strawberries, here is another video. Start at minute 1:22.

Strawberry Facts

  • It is said that strawberries get their names from when growers used to (and sometimes still do) place straw around the berries. It is also said that kids used to sell the berries on grass straws as a straw of berries.
  • Strawberries have an average of 200 seeds per strawberry.
  • Strawberries are grown in every state of America.
  • Per capita, Americans eat 3.4 pounds of fresh strawberries per year.
  • Strawberries are the first fruit to ripen in the spring.
  • Strawberries are a member of the rose family.
  • Technically, strawberries are not a true berry because their seeds are on the outside.
  • Native Americans called strawberries, heart-seed berries, and would crush them into their corn meal bread. The colonist made their own version, giving us strawberry shortcake.
  • One cup of strawberries is only 55 calories.

Now, don’t you want some strawberries?

STRawberry

Sources:

http://extension.illinois.edu/strawberries/facts.cfm

http://www.pickyourown.org/strawberryfacts.htm

http://www.agmrc.org/commodities__products/fruits/strawberries/commodity-strawberry-profile/

http://www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry/factsheets/strawberryhistory.html

Growing Strawberry Plants Commercially

 

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