Grow your own strawberries
The first vegetable of the spring season is the strawberry. Better known in ancient Roman and early European times as "the strawberry", this name was originally given because the berries were strewn over the leaves of the plant.
Strawberries are considered among the world's healthiest low-calorie fruit, high in vitamins C and K, and in manganese.
When buying, select shiny, plump strawberries with a deep red color; they do not ripen further after picking. Store dry in the refrigerator and eat them as soon as possible. Nothing is more delicious than your own homegrown ones picked and eaten on the spot, still warm from the sun. Strawberries are best eaten or used within a few days of picking. They should be stored in the refrigerator, unwashed, but thoroughly washed before consuming.
As in their growing phase, strawberries do not like being crowded in storage either. Any soft or bruised strawberries should be eaten immediately or used for jams, jellies, sauces or purees. Strawberries freeze very nicely and can be kept for up to one year. For best results, freeze berries with or without sugar (about one cup strawberries to one cup sugar) in freezer zipper-closure bags. Do not pack berries too tightly. It is best to leave one-half to one-inch space at the top of the bag before sealing. Also, a reminder, the less air in the bag, the better your strawberries will freeze.
Strawberries can be washed, sliced and sprinkled over green salads and tossed lightly with olive oil, scattered over pound or angel food cake or strewn atop a bowl of ice cream.
Strawberries are easy to grow in the ground and in small containers.
Backyard gardeners can grow strawberries easily. If you do not own a big garden, try cultivating the fruit in strawberry jars or pyramids, barrels or raised beds.
Plant your own patch
Soil: Strawberries thrive in well-drained, fertile soil, to which has been added plenty of organic matter, such as good-quality compost. A pH of 5.5 to 6.5 (slightly acid) is ideal.
Sun: These sun lovers need a minimum of six hours of sun daily and good air circulation. Water: Unless an inch of rain falls each week, you should apply supplemental water. Planting: After firming, the crown (where leaf stems emerge) should be at ground level. Plant 12 inches apart in rows, 3 to 4 feet apart.
Mulch: Apply a mulch of straw, compost or other organic material to help retain soil moisture, cut down on weeds and keep the roots cool.
Care: Weed strawberry beds to eliminate competition for water, nutrients and light. Remove runners regularly, unless they're needed for new beds. Keep slugs at bay and select disease-resistant plants.