If I had to pick one fruit as my favorite (thank goodness, I don't!), it just might be the strawberry. Specifically, I love the wild strawberries that used to grow along the railroad tracks near my childhood home, but they're like peas - you have to pick hundreds of them before you really have enough to eat or use in recipes. Can't beat that wild strawberry flavor though.
For years, we grew a June-bearing variety of strawberries, but when you love them as much as I do, one picking of berries just isn't enough. So this year, we're making entirely new raised beds and we're trying a different kind of strawberry. We're planting a day-neutral variety.
There are three types of strawberries: June-bearing, everbearing and day-neutral. The first produces fruit for two to three weeks in June and then they're done. Everbearing strawberries will produce two to three crops throughout the summer and day-neutral plants bear berries intermittently all summer. June-bearing produces lots of runners and the fruit is generally larger than the other two types, which don't produce many runners.
There are varieties that can be grown in just about all zones in the U.S., from zone 3 to zone 10. Be sure to check the tag. They are typically planted in the spring, making sure they are sited in full sun and have good drainage.
With all types, it's recommended to remove the blossoms and runners for the first year, although blossoms can be left after July 1 to mature into fruit on day-neutral and everbearing plants. The idea behind this is to allow the plants to focus their energy on growing strong roots and parent plants, which means there will be better fruit production.
Strawberry plants produce best in the first three years. They tend to decline every year after that, so it's advisable to replant new runners or new plants and get rid of older plants to keep your strawberry bed working to its best potential. This is the same for all varieties.
According to NutritionData.com, a cup of strawberries provides 149 percent of your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C! They're also high in folate, potassium and manganese, and provide 12 percent of our dietary fiber recommendation.
Strawberries are one of my favorite snacks and one of the few that I love that's actually good for me!