How To Grow the Sweetest Strawberries

Growing your own strawberries will give you that old-fashioned sweetness that is missing in store-bought strawberries. June berries are often considered the sweetest type to grow, but the ultimate sweetness is a mix of variety and growing conditions. Here are some tips on how to grow the sweetest strawberries and enhance their sweetness beyond just the variety.

What Are The Sweetest Strawberry Varieties?

When trying to figure out which strawberry cultivars to grow for super-sweet fruits, it helps to know that there are three basic types. Of course, the exact timing of when your strawberries will be ready to pick depends on your climate. However, this basic categorization will help you choose based on when you want the berries.

  • June-bearing strawberries: These are typically the sweetest and most popular variety. They produce a large crop for a short period, usually in late spring or early summer.
  • Everbearing strawberries: These strawberries produce two crops, one in spring and another in late summer or fall. They are known for their sweet flavor and tend to be smaller in size.
  • Day-neutral strawberries: These varieties are the most versatile and can produce fruits throughout the growing season. They are ideal for areas with mild winters.

Strawberry sweetness doesn’t depend solely on the type. All three categories contain beautifully sweet cultivars that will make store-bought fruits seem lackluster. Check out the sweetest strawberry varieties in each category:

  • June-bearing: Chandler, Honeoye, Jewel
  • Everbearing: Ozark Beauty, Seascape, Tribute
  • Day-neutral: Albion, Quinault, Tristar

Did you know? Some strawberries, like the ‘Mara Des Bois’, are known for their intense sweetness but don’t fit neatly into any of these categories. The fruiting time of these cultivars is highly dependent on climate.

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Alpine Strawberries

Apart from the well-known garden strawberries, there are also “original” or “wild” strawberry species worth exploring. One of them is the alpine strawberry (Fragaria vesca). Though smaller in size, they are immensely fragrant, sweet, and have an intense strawberry flavor. Consider growing a few alpine strawberries alongside your domestic cultivars for a delightful twist.

Did you know? The sweetness of fruits is measured using something called the Brix scale, which denotes sugar content. Aroma also plays a crucial role in flavor perception.

4 Keys to Growing the Sweetest Strawberries

Once you’ve selected the strawberry varieties you’d like to grow, providing the right care is essential for them to develop sweet fruits. Luckily, strawberries are not the most difficult plants to maintain. Follow these basic guidelines to ensure your berries come out sweet and delicious:

Fertilizer, Or The Power Of Potassium

Strawberries convert potassium into sugar during the ripening process. To ensure your strawberries turn out super sweet, provide them with a potassium-heavy fertilizer. Look for fertilizers with a high potassium content (the ‘K’ in the NPK ratio) and apply them regularly, especially after the plants have started flowering. Special strawberry fertilizers or tomato fertilizers with high potassium content are ideal.

Light

Strawberries love soaking up the sun. While they can still produce in relatively shaded positions, they thrive in full sunlight. The light triggers sugar production, resulting in sweeter fruits. Place your strawberries in a sunny spot where they can receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day.

Soil

If possible, plant your strawberries directly in natural soil, as many enthusiasts claim it enhances their flavor. However, if this isn’t an option, provide a loamy soil mix with added sand. Incorporate plenty of organic matter, such as compost or forest humus, to improve soil fertility. Aim for slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.5-6.5.

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Water

Strawberry plants in full-sun locations have a tendency to dry out quickly. Ensure they receive sufficient water by giving them a good soak every day, preferably in the early morning or evening to avoid sunburn. Potted strawberries may require watering twice a day, so keep an eye on the soil moisture. Ensure proper drainage by using containers with holes to avoid root rot.

Tip: One pound of strawberries yields about 4 cups hulled or 3 cups sliced.

When and How To Harvest

Harvesting at the right time is crucial for the best flavor. Here are some tips on when and how to harvest your strawberries:

When to Pick Strawberries

Strawberries should be fully ripe when picked. Look for uniform red coloration without any green on the shoulders. The berries should be firm but not rock-hard or overly squishy. Check your plants daily for ripe fruits, as they can quickly become mushy if left too long. Gently pick them, leaving some of the stems attached to avoid bruising.

The best time to pick strawberries is a matter of personal preference. Some prefer to harvest in the morning when it’s cool, while others find that berries picked at the hottest time of day taste better. Harvest whenever it suits you!

How to Pick

Look for plump, bright red, and fully ripe berries. Caps should be attached, green, and fresh-looking. You can pick them with your thumb and forefinger, but it’s best to harvest with a pair of scissors to avoid damaging the plant.

Buying Organic Strawberries

Strawberries are known to be susceptible to pesticide contamination. If your budget allows, opt for organic strawberries, as they reduce exposure to pesticide residues. Produce with thin or edible skin, like strawberries, often rank high on the Environmental Working Group’s list of the “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides.”

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Nutritional Benefits of Strawberries

Strawberries are not only delicious but also packed with nutritional benefits. Here are some facts:

  • One cup of strawberries provides 3 grams of fiber.
  • Strawberries contain more than a full day’s recommended dose of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that helps keep the skin healthy.

Recipes for the Sweet Harvest

A home-grown strawberry tastes completely different from the tasteless berries you usually find in grocery stores. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use them:

  • Easiest Strawberry Fool
  • No-Cook Strawberry Tiramisu Cake
  • Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with Strawberries
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler with Citrus Syrup
  • Strawberry Cornmeal Sheet Cake

FAQs

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Reference:

  • Fan, Z., Hasing, T., Johnson, T. S., Garner, D. M., Schwieterman, M. L., Barbey, C. R., … & Whitaker, V. M. (2021). Strawberry sweetness and consumer preference are enhanced by specific volatile compounds. Horticulture Research, 8.

For more information about growing the sweetest strawberries, visit Tims Family Farm.