Strawberries are a universally loved fruit that even the fussiest of green thumbs enjoy. They are sweet, juicy red gems of goodness, and will taste even sweeter and more flavoursome when homegrown. As there is nothing more disappointing then buying an expensive punnet of strawberries from the supermarket and throwing half of them away! Strawberries are perfect for growing in small garden beds or even in hanging planters if you’re a bit short on horizontal space. They are also one of the easiest and rewarding plants for kids to grow. Unfortunately, humans aren’t the only strawberry lovers. Birds, possums, slugs, snails and even dogs can decimate a crop of berries in no time at all, so consider putting wire mesh or netting over your plants to keep them safe.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
My First Garden
Certified disease-free strawberry seedlings from your local nursery
Good quality potting mix
Water-filled watering can
Pea or sugarcane straw mulch
HOW TO GROW
- Choose a sunny position for your My First Garden.
- Prepare your garden bed with good quality potting mix.
- Plant your strawberry seedlings, roughly 20cm apart.
- Apply a 3-5cm layer of straw mulch to keep on top of their moisture requirements and prevent emerging berries from rotting. This is apparently how they got their name ‘straw’ berries.
- Water 3-4 times a week in the first month and then cut back to once or twice a week, except in really hot weather.
- Apply seaweed concentrate once a fortnight for an extra growing boost.
- For the fullest flavour, pick your luscious berries when they are three-quarters red.
AUNTY EM’S STRAWBERRY TARTLETS
The perfect treat for an afternoon tea party and a way to showcase your kids strawberry growing skills.
175g plain flour
100g chilled organic butter
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 egg yolk
3 egg yolks
20g plain flour
60g caster sugar
1 cup (250mL) of milk
1 vanilla bean, split
A handful of strawberries, halved
1-tablespoon good quality strawberry jam
A few mint leaves
- To make pastry, blend flour, butter and sugar in a food processor. Add egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of cold water. Process until smooth. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 170°C. Roll out pastry on a floured board and use to line 15 small pastry moulds. Prick all over with a fork and refrigerate for another 30 minutes.
- To make crème, place egg yolks, flour and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a bowl and whisk until pale. Combine milk, remaining sugar and vanilla bean in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Discard vanilla bean and strain into egg mixture. Cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes until thickened, then cool.
- Bake pastry cases for 7-10 minutes until lightly golden. Fill with crème patisserie, top with strawberries, brush with a little jam and top with a mint leaf.
Recipe adapted from taste.com.au
Aside from being simply delicious, these juicy heart-shaped delights are a surprising storehouse of nutrients. They contain vitamin C, fibre, anthocyanins (antioxidants), potassium and magnesium making them perfect for growing little bodies. Folklore states that if you split a double strawberry in half and share it with someone else, you’ll soon fall in love. So be careful who you share your strawberries with!