Right now is the prime time for strawberries. Seeing all the fresh strawberries at the local farmer’s markets got me thinking about my delicious Strawberry cake that I make.
Strawberries are a red, sweet, juicy fruit consumed in everything from preserves to milkshakes. Synonymous with summertime, but able to withstand shipping and storage, small berries tend to taste better than that are larger varieties, since larger ones tend to be more watery. Peak season is from April to September, depending upon the location.
First known strawberry was documented in France during the 14th century. Wild strawberries were harvested and eventually cultivated in domestic gardens during the 18th century Europe. Originally consumed for medical reasons, Europeans eventually paired strawberries with cream, which incurred an appreciation explorers would share with the world.
Commercial production did not begin in America until the 19th century. As settlers moved from east to west, they carried strawberry plants and introduced the plant to new soil, expanding cultivation. Today, strawberries are the forth most valuable food crop in the United States. Advances in planting systems, drip irrigation and seed propagation have improved the volume production of the crop. California has the largest strawberry production in the United States.
Strawberry plants are considered a vine. This means the plant has “runners” which can be cut to either control the size of the plant, or produce “daughter plants,” which would propagate more fruit and more runners. It is best to plant new seedlings in the fall to allow for proper root development and the formation of “crowns,” while trimming early runners. Runners can be allowed to grow, making new roots and forming new plants which would increase fruit production.
Plants grow best in moisture retaining soil, which is irrigated frequently. They require very low fertilization and plants can be kept for 3-4 years before replacing. Best in climates that have warm sunny days and cool nights.
“If planted in the fall, the roots will be better established for summer harvest. They can be planted in the spring but will require much more stringent attention, as the root system will be very vulnerable,” says horticultural expert Doug Johnson.
Types of Strawberries
According to almanac.com, there are three types of plant
- Day-Neutral: Regardless of day length, these varieties produce buds, fruits and runners continuously if temperature remains between 35 and 85. Production is less than that of Junebearers.
- Everbearer: These varieties form buds during the long days of summer and the short days of autumn. The summer-formed buds flower and fruit in autumn, and the autumn-formed buds fruit the following spring.
- Junebearer: Length-of-day sensitive, these varieties produce buds in the autumn, flowers and fruits the following spring, and runners during the long days of summer.
Most home gardeners should plant “junebearer,” It will require patience because you will have to wait one year for harvest.
Buying and Storing
- Choose brightly colored, plump berries, that still have their green caps, uniform in size
- Avoid soft, shriveled or moldy berries
- Do not wash until ready to use
- Store in a single layer, on a paper towel in a moisture proof container
- Store in refrigerator 2-3 days
JoAnn’s Strawberry Cake
1 box of Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix
1-2 quarts of fresh strawberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 pint whipping cream
2 Tablespoons of extra fine sugar
- Mix cake as directed on cake box. Bake cake in (2) 8″ round cake pans that were sprayed with Baker’s Joy. Cook as package directs. Cool cakes completely.
- Cut cake layers in half, creating 4 layers.
- In a mixing bowl, slice and hull each strawberry. Disgard stems and hulls. Dissolve the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar in with strawberries. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes. Strawberries should have residual juice in the bowl after chilling.
- In a mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, whip the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Beat in the extra fine sugar and vanilla flavoring until dissolved.
- Alternate layers of cake by starting with bottom layer of the cake, followed by a single layer of chilled strawberries, followed by a layer of whip cream.
- After final layer of whipping cream, decorate top of cake with leftover strawberries.
- For best results, chill cake for two hours before serving.