strawberry fields - but not quite forever!

As we head into the second week of Wimbledon the British public will be half way through consuming the 27 tonnes of strawberries that get munched throughout this fortnight each year. The Romans cultivated strawberries as early as 200 BC. In medieval times, strawberries were regarded as an aphrodisiac and soup made of strawberries, borage and soured cream was traditionally served to newlyweds at their wedding breakfast.

There are a number of theories on how strawberries got their name. Some say that they were originally called 'strewberries' because the berries are strewn about the bush. Others believe that their name is derived from the straw basket that was traditionally used to carry the berries, in the sixteenth century. Irrespective of the origins of the name, communities have enjoyed them for hundreds of years.

They are a really challenging crop to grow and handle organically. As a perennial (in the ground for at least two years) they tend to be prone to diseases. Botrytis is one of the biggest threats - especially if the weather is moist and humid. Lucio who grows strawberries for River Nene has to choose the varieties very carefully. His main focus is to pick varieties with good taste - but he also needs to think about the susceptibility of the variety to pests and diseases. Slugs can also be a problem - just when the fruits are starting to colour and sweeten the slugs can have a field day. I know of one organic grower importing teams of hedgehogs to tackle the problem!

Most of the strawberries that we have sold so far have been either Symphony or Honeoye - both with great taste. We will look to supply strawberries with the boxes for the next couple of weeks before winding up until next year. All our strawberries are grown on ridges outside - without any protection from plastic. This helps with the flavour but means the season is quite short - like it is supposed to be!

Rob Haward