Picking Strawberry Fruit: When And How To Harvest A Strawberry: Strawberries belong to the rose family and are grown commercially in alternate years. The plants take up a lot of space, hence commercial strawberry culture is alternated with other main crops such as potatoes, cereals etc.
Seedlings for planting must be obtained from certified nurseries only as the fruit crop passes through a cycle of viruses diseases which can be transmitted through seedlings or soil. However local homemade varieties make good home garden material.
The first commercial variety released was ‘Malling 16’ developed by East Malling Research Station in Kent England. It is quite disease resistant but bears small to medium fruits of variable quality taste and keeping ability depending on weather conditions during harvest season. Since then many improved cultivars have been developed mainly for their ability to produce well all over the country and for larger better quality fruit.
As a rule of thumb,plants should be spaced 30cm to 40cm apart in rows 60cm apart. However this may vary depending on cultivar used and planting system employed such as matted row or hill culture etc. A single row rather than double offers more efficient picking and reduced damage caused by vehicles driving through the crop.
The number of flushes (crops) per season depends largely on weather conditions during flowering period. Over-wintering plants often bear only one good crop while summer planted material may have 3 or 4 flushes depending on variety etc.
Harvest time is determined by the stage of berry development right from flower bud to half grown, fully developed and finally mature ripe fruit.
Flower buds – This stage coincides with the first appearance of flower buds in early winter or late autumn on plants that have been cut back severely after fruiting. Removal of these new flower buds before they open up into new shoots will help prevent a large number of vegetative shoots from developing during next season’s growth period leading to a more heavily concentrated crop in the coming season. Plants left unpruned produce large numbers of vegetative shoots right through winter which leaves them weak and susceptible to cold weather damage . Hence pruning is very important for healthy strawberry plants with strong good quality fruit crops due for harvest later on.
When to Pick Strawberries
Fully developed – This stage starts with the appearance of the first open flowers in early winter or late autumn on unpruned non bearing plants. Only fruit that are firm to touch should be harvested at this stage as soft ones will not withstand storage conditions due to their high moisture content .
Half Grown – These are the fruit at the end of June/beginning of July. Fruit size is medium to large and berries can be stored for a short period without much loss in quality provided temperatures during storage remain above 10 degree Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit).
To harvest strawberries ,bring along a sharp knife and cut through the stem connecting fruit to plant gently pull off with downward twisting motion rather than upwards which may damage nearby fruit still attached to the plant.
Leave a few inches of foliage sticking out from the top of fruit bunch before you start harvesting to protect them from sunburn.
Store in a cool shady place over night if not consumed immediately,provided temperatures during storage remain above 10 degree Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit).
Remove excess foliage and wash only when ready to use them up.
Before marketing pick fruits having light shade of pinkish-red color which is typical for fully ripe strawberries .Translucent white or pale red berries are under-ripes and should be left to mature further while dark red ones are overripe and will spoil within a day or two if stored at room temperature.
How to harvest a Strawberry
Strawberry plants are mostly planted in the spring, while some cultivars are grown for winter flowering.
Typically strawberry plants are grown with their crowns just above ground level with runners spaced about 20 cm apart.
Harvesting strawberries is done when they are ripe which depends on the type of plant being harvested from. Generally they are cut off by hand or snipped with a stem clip, leaving a few inches of stem attached to the fruit so it will stay fresh longer and produce new flowers . A way to tell if they’re ready is to grab them firmly with your fingers and twist gently. If they separate easily at harvest time., They might have been left too long on the plant before harvesting ,which can cause splitting. If they don’t detach easily from the plant, they probably need a few more days.
Once picked strawberries should be kept in a cool place with plenty of moisture to keep them fresh. They last for up to 10 days when stored at 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit) and high humidity. Harvesting too soon can cause uneven ripening that results in off flavors due to the higher sugar content from the unripe fruit.
The plants begin bearing strawberries in their second year and will continue for many years depending on variety, location and care provided .
Defrosted strawberries are easy to use in desserts such as strawberry shortcake , sundaes or milkshakes ,or can simply be served with cream or sugar as a delicious low calorie snack.
Strawberry plants can also be grown in containers and hanging baskets, making them perfect for patios and porches.
When to Pick Strawberries Fully developed – This stage starts with the appearance of the first open flowers in early winter or late autumn on unpruned non bearing plants. Only fruit that are firm to touch should be harvested at this stage as soft ones will not withstand storage conditions due to their high moisture content . Half Grown – These are the fruit at the end of June/beginning of July.
Storing Strawberries Strawberry
Strawberries will stay fresh for three days in refrigeration but after that, they go downhill fast. If your strawberry harvest yielded you more berries than you can eat or give away, don’t despair, you can salvage the harvest.
Freeze them! Cut off the stem and leaves, wash them all clean, spread them out on a cookie sheet and freeze.
Then transfer to zip lock bags or canning jars for longer storage.
Use as you would fresh berries in your favorite recipes or just serve plain with cream or ice cream. Just don’t do what I used to do – eat so many strawberries right away that they spoil before you have time to use them . Starting from planting strawberries till harvesting they must be maintained regularly so as to ensure quality yields at any time of the year . This is a simple process requiring a little attention every now and then during the growing season . There are several biological factors which affect crop growth directly or indirectly such as sunlight , temperature, humidity and wind . The success of a crop depends upon the vegetative growth and thus productivity of the plant. Strawberry fruits are usually harvested at their peak ripeness by pulling them from their stem with a gentle twist.
Strawberries do not continue to ripen after they have been picked ,so if you want them to be sweeter or softer, pick them only when they are fully ripe. When hard fruits are placed in close proximity with those that are softening, they will soften up within two days. To prolong the strawberry harvest from your plants, keep removing all ripe fruit as soon as possible for eating or preserving . On a commercial scale strawberries must be harvested before they start deteriorating or dropping off on account of being exposed to sun and rain . Fruit harvested too early will not ripen properly after removal from plant as such fruit has a very high water content and low acidity which does not lead to good flavour. Pick the fruits with stem so as to avoid bruising of the fruit during harvesting .
Strawberry is best eaten fresh ,if it has to be stored either for home consumption or for marketing, then it should be kept in cold storage at 1-2Â°C.