Everything You Need To Know About Boddington’s Cornish Strawberries
It has been a great start to the British strawberry season this year. A prolonged period of sunshine with cold nights, as we had through the end of April, triggers young fruit plants to produce a lot of sugar during the day and then lock it away during the cold nights, creating beautifully sweet fruit.
Every week now we’re collecting Cornish strawberries from Boddington’s Berries, a third generation strawberry farm near Mevagissey that started out as a market garden in the 1940s, and we’ll be offering punnets (Boddington’s punnets are made of cardboard and compostable) as an add-on to Fruutboxes until their season finishes in late July. Here’s the low-down on this most classic of summer fruits, and why our Cornish strawberries are so special.
Fascinating Strawberry Fact
You might need to pull up a chair and sit down to read this fact: did you know that a strawberry isn’t a true fruit and that the little seeds on the outside of a strawberry aren’t in fact seeds but lots of tiny fruits? It’s mind blowing! Scientifically, a fruit is the soft part of a plant that contains a seed or seeds, which has developed when a grain of pollen falls down the stigma and style to fertilise the ovule within a flower and the ovary around it swells up, creating the fruit around the fertilized seed. Think of any stone fruit, such as a peach, as an example. A strawberry flower has lots of stigmas/styles/ovaries, between 50 and 200 instead of just one, and each of these develops into a small, dry “fruit” containing its own seed, that most of us think of as being the seeds on the outside of a strawberry. The juicy part of a strawberry that we all enjoy eating is what’s known as a “fleshy receptacle” and develops from the part of the plant that connects the flower to the stem. So a strawberry is not one fruit, but many, and each of those little bits on the outside is actually a tiny individual fruit containing a seed. Incredible, isn’t it?!
Varieties of Strawberries
Phil and his team at Boddington’s Berries grow two different cultivars of June-bearer strawberries, to allow them to offer fruit for a longer period through spring and summer. There are two types of strawberries, June-bearing and ever-bearing, with June-bearing being the “traditional” type that produces a greater yield of fruit for a shorter period, with their season being determined by day length. Ever-bearing varieties produce fewer (and often smaller) fruit but over a longer period and are day neutral so are not affected by the changes in day length over the summer, meaning that they can continue producing in late summer when June-bearer crops have been and gone.
June-bearing strawberries, as the name suggests, produces one crop around late spring and early summer, however depending upon how they are grown the production of fruit can be accelerated or delayed to extend the season, even on the same farm. At Boddington’s, the first strawberries of the season, usually harvested around the end of April, are the Elsanta variety that produces large, shiny strawberries that are known for their quality, firmness, and long shelf life.
These run through May and into June until they are replaced by a late-season Scottish variety called Symphony. Symphony are well known for producing medium-sized, uniform, firm and juicy fruit with an “old fashioned” strawberry flavour.
How Our Strawberries Are Grown
It wasn’t that long ago that all strawberries produced in the UK were grown on the ground out in the open-air. This is why they traditionally had such a short season. These days though, it would be possible to harvest strawberries all-year round, as happens in Holland, by growing them in heated and lit glasshouses (an energy-intensive and not very environmentally friendly technique). Between those two extremes, strawberries can be grown in polytunnels and Spanish tunnels (which are larger temporary polytunnels with open sides), on the ground with straw or on tables. Boddington’s farm is located just outside Mevagissey, on the south coast of Cornwall, so benefits from a mild maritime climate. By choosing and growing the right varieties of strawberries under the right conditions, they can provide delicious, high quality fruit throughout the season. Their earliest strawberries are grown in a small glasshouse, in growbags on tables. Tabletop production produces better fruit because they can hang rather than being sat on the ground, and harvesting them is also more comfortable because the team don’t have to spend the whole time bent down or knelt on the floor!
As these finish up, the next to be harvested have been grown on tabletop in small, non-ventilated polytunnels that create warm and humid growing conditions. Towards the end of the season, through June and July, the Symphony is grown on the ground in Spanish tunnels so they can be well ventilated but protected from rain and birds, and tend to ripen later due to the lower heat and humidity of the Spanish tunnels.
Once Boddington’s last berries have been picked, that’ll be it for FruutBox strawberries until next spring. Rather than switch to shipping in strawberries from overseas, we want to keep these seasonal Cornish berries special and only deliver to you the best that we can get.