In the Harvest Basket this Week:
- Dazzling Blue Lacinato Kale
- Walla Walla Sweet Onions - big, juicy and sweet!
- Kohlrabi - the last of it until late fall...
- English Cucumbers
- Cauliflower - purple or neon green
Strawberries on Pause this Week
Qué lástima (what a pity), our strawberries are having a minor hiccup right now. We're in the midst of an episode of Type III bronzing in some of our Seascapes: some of the fruit is rough, leathery and seedy, which renders it unmarketable. Type III bronzing is thought to occur after fruit exposure to environmental stress in the form of high heat (over 85 degrees), extreme solar radiation, and low humidity. We're seeing it in our youngest plants primarily, where the leafy canopy is not fully developed yet. It happens every year to some extent, but is particularly bad this week. I'm guessing the culprit was the week of hot weather we had in mid-June. It takes strawberries 4 to 6 weeks to transform from blossom to fruit, so the fruit that was just forming in mid-June is maturing into ugly seedy berries right now. Bummer. It means no strawberries in the share this week, but fingers crossed for a return to beautiful harvests in the coming weeks.
There isn't a lot of research on bronzing, and actually some controversy over whether it is caused by environmental factors or a pest called thrips. I have a call and an email in to the UC organic strawberry expert in Santa Cruz in hopes of shedding some more light on the issue. We did make an interesting observation yesterday during harvest, which was that the June-bearers, which have a huge leafy, protective canopy, show no sign of bronzing, and our most mature Seascapes have very little bronzing. However, the side of the strawberry patch that was planted latest last fall has the worst of it. It suggests that the timing of planting in the fall could make all the difference. We typically start planting our new strawberry crowns in November and finish up by mid-December. If getting them in the ground in November can prevent bronzing episodes the following summer, it argues for dedicating more labor to planting strawberries as early as possible in November.
The good news is that the strawberry u-pick, which includes our June-bearing varieties and our most mature Seascapes, is mostly unscathed. So if you're desperate for some berries this week, venture out and experience strawberry harvest first-hand. The beds are somewhat limited right now, so plan to get there at 11 am if you have your heart set on filling a bunch of buckets.
Here's a quote I have always appreciated, as someone who has crawled countless miles picking strawberries in this lifetime:
Strawberries are too delicate to be picked by machine. The perfectly ripe ones bruise at even too heavy a human touch. It hit her then that every strawberry she had ever eaten - every piece of fruit - had been picked by calloused human hands. Every piece of toast with jelly represented someone's knees, someone's aching back and hips, someone with a bandanna on her wrist to wipe away the sweat. Why had no one told her about this before. -- Alison Luterman, What We Came For