Strawberries in Wexford

As summer approaches, the roads around this part of the world spring up with roadside stalls selling strawberries. Wexford, in the ‘sunny south east’ is known for this summer crop and I am fortunate in living in walking distance of a strawberry farm. In fact, we made the effort to get out and walked down for a coffee on Sunday to see if the season had started and I walked back balancing a big punnet of fruits. Amazingly, most of them made it back to the house and did not get eaten on the way. Good as they are, this farm, in common with others, grows the crop in growing bags, on shoulder-height structures in polytunnels and the taste varies with the cultivar chosen for various crops which ripen from now till the last in September. I find it odd that they never say what the variety is, but they do taste better for having to walk and get them, knowing they have been grown on site.

But they don’t taste like the strawberries of my childhood. Strawberries have been expertly bred for many purposes but eating quality and taste are not among them. I can see why we buy hard strawberries in plastic punnets lined with bubble plastic (down the road they are in card punnets) because I remember working in the greengrocer when I was at school. Strawberries arrived in flats (shallow boxes) and were tipped into the window display. They were then scooped into bags and not one would be perfect when you bought them. I hated cleaning up the display at the end of the day, a sticky mess buzzing with wasps. There was not even a fridge in the place and the cream we stocked to sell with them was ‘sterilised cream’ – what happened to that – it was strange white, thick, chalky stuff.

But back to now. Although our haul of local strawberries was delicious, it was nothing compared to the crop that is ripening at home. I have three strawberry cultivars in the garden, and three more in pots to try out. The main three are in raised beds in the garden and are in bloom but I also planted some in a bed in the polytunnel for an early crop. These will be allowed to make runners and I will root these and plant some growing bags later in summer to try to grow them as the big boys do. And the variety is ‘Gariguette’. This is the classic French strawberry although it only dates to 1970. The fruits are elongated and classic pale scarlet rather than deep red. They are soft and melting, and loved by slugs, hence my plan to grow them off the ground. But the taste! They are incredibly aromatic and have an amazing taste, rather more acid than most and heavenly sweet when fully ripe, but a bit tart if not. They not only taste amazing but they smell – of strawberries.

‘Gariguette’ is not very good for commercial growers, so you can’t buy these in shops. You have to grow them yourself. It does not crop heavily and the berries are easily damaged, though they manage to get them to market in France. By growing a few in the tunnel and a few outside I hope to get a longer season though this is always an early variety. I am sure it will make wonderful jam but it is very unlikely that any will get to be cooked. One I have to try, but I can’t grow them all at once, is ‘Mara des Bois’ which is also said to taste amazing, with flavour of alpine strawberries. It is ever-bearing too.


12 Comments on “Strawberries in Wexford”

  1. Paddy Tobin
    May 12, 2022 at 9:06 pm #

    I have heard great reports of the ‘Gariguette’ but have never grown nor tasted it. One to look out for. I agree with your comments re commercial strawberries, that they are not at all like those grown at home. It is of note that when the grandchildren visit at strawberry time they simply scoff the fresh strawberries here – pick and eat!

    • thebikinggardener
      May 13, 2022 at 7:23 am #

      I will arrange to get some rooted runners to you!

      • Paddy Tobin
        May 13, 2022 at 8:45 am #

        Oh, that’s very good of you. Many thanks.

  2. tonytomeo
    May 13, 2022 at 1:51 am #

    Strawberries are one of the main crops in Watsonville, which is why Watsonville used to be considered the Strawberry Capitol of the World. Yet, I do not bother with them, for the same reasons cited here. I do not grow them in my garden either. Even though good old fashioned cultivars are available, strawberries are simply not my favorite fruit.

    • thebikinggardener
      May 13, 2022 at 7:22 am #

      I will have to research about Watsonville. I could not imagine summer without strawberries and although I often wish to live where more exotic fruits are possible, one advantage of being in a cool temperate climate is being able to grow strawberries.

      • tonytomeo
        May 13, 2022 at 2:51 pm #

        Well, you can grow apples and pears better than you could in milder climates where other fruits grow. I notice the difference when I go to the Los Angeles region, or to the Pacific Northwest. Only two types of apples live in Beverly Hills, and neither are very good or very reliable. I have never seen an apricot or peach tree in Washington.

        • thebikinggardener
          May 14, 2022 at 10:21 am #

          I can appreciate that apples are not easy to grow in S California. My love affair with apricots was ignited when travelling round California at apricot-harvest time – I would guess around Modesto. Until then I had no idea how good an apricot could be.

          • tonytomeo
            May 14, 2022 at 10:49 pm #

            Oh, apricots were the primary crop where I grew up! Well, that is likely why I am none too keen on them now. I do enjoy growing them though, . . . and then giving them to neighbors. Prunes were the second most common crop, but many had been replaced by urban development by my time. Blooming orchards of the Santa Clara Valley were a tourist destination a long time ago, like the autumn color of New England.

            • thebikinggardener
              May 15, 2022 at 8:49 am #

              I would be happy to be your neighbour if you passed over buckets of ripe apricots

              • tonytomeo
                May 15, 2022 at 8:38 pm #

                Well, this is no longer a good place to be a neighbor. It is some of the most expensive real estate in America, and is nothing like it was. People in the electronics industries earn significant income, but live in poverty. Very few people enjoy gardening. Many go outside only because that is where they park their cars.

              • thebikinggardener
                May 16, 2022 at 8:03 am #

                That is very sad.

              • tonytomeo
                May 17, 2022 at 5:18 pm #

                Yes. I know it happens in many places, but I can not think of any place that was ruined as severely as the Santa Clara Valley was. It would be more tolerable if those who ruined it at least came outside to enjoy it once in a while. It would have been no different for them if they had taken their development somewhere else where no one else wants to be.

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