Exploring the potential of edible forest gardens: experiences from a participatory action research project in Sweden Agroforest Syst https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-018-0208-8
Johanna Björklund . Karin Eksvärd . Christina Schaffer
This research project explores the feasibility of growing a diversity of crops in a planned, forested area. The goals are lofty:
“The desired functions from the systems were agreed to be the provision of nutritious and tasty food products, nitrogen fixation, nutrient accumulation, the provision of quality food for pollinators, carbon sequestration, contribution to a benign microclimate and the provision of timber. The design and species composition were planned to optimize these functions”
This research reminds me of the permaculture gardens that have risen in popularity across the U.S. Whenever you have a multi-use approach to agriculture, there are a lot of tradeoffs especially in maximizing yield. Having layers of berry bushes growing beneath a nut tree, for instance, reduces light and could adversely impact yield and pollinator activity because the area becomes too shady. There is a desire for timber, but cut trees down and the entire moisture, light, etc. regimes of this ecosystem are changed. One of the plants included in this study was lambs quarter, Chenopodium album, an annual that would most definitely die out after a while because of shading and competition from trees as well as lack of disturbance of the soils. It certainly is a fun exercise and yields of any one crop will suffer, but in my back yard? Why not?
For anyone interested, here is a short article I wrote a few years ago about the history of strawberry breeding and cultivation in Alaska. Strawberry history
Strawberries have been a passion all over the world for hundreds of years. The story is no different in Alaska where strawberry mania traveled North with the Gold Rush. The attached link is an interesting history of the development of the strawberry with one of the world’s top producers, Driscoll as well as conflicts with public and private breeding interests. It evens mentions Alaska wild strawberries! Driscoll Strawberries conducted some research along with the UAF Georgeson Botanical Garden into strawberry plant production in the 1990s. They were interested in learning if producing the plants at high latitudes would improve yields when the plants were transplanted in southern California and Mexico for fruit production. The results were not positive so they moved on to other ideas. It was interesting working with this private company and learning their research procedures that have since catapulted their patented strawberries into world fame. Anyone who buys strawberries at Safeway or Freddies certainly knows their name. It is also interesting to note that Alaska had the first strawberry breeding program at a U.S. University anywhere! It was begun by Charles Georgeson in the early 1900s. Others certainly have lasted longer, but Alaska was the first! We just can’t seem to get anyone in the State to fund ag research on any level. The Agricultural Experiment Station was THE research and development arm for Alaska farmers, and today it is a shadow of its former self.
The Driscoll Story
The Cornell Cooperative Extensions Berry Diagnostic Tool is an excellent resource for anyone growing or interested in strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, currants, and gooseberries. This online tool allows anyone to select a berry crop and then from a variety of descriptions of plant growth issues, deformities, discolorations, damage, or other indicator that occurs on the whole plant, flower, fruit, or vegetative to continue to diagnose the issue. Lots of photographs and links to in depth articles are included about many diagnoses to really get to the “root” of the issue. Finally, recommendations for management of the issue can be selected after referring to the images and descriptions
Citation: Cornell Cooperative Extension. 2016. Cornell Fruit Berry Diagnostic Tool. Available online: Diagnosis. Accessed: 12 October 201
Fruit Soup Recipe
2 cups dry red wine 1 cup water ; 2/3 cup sugar ; 2 whole star anise ; 2 cinnamon sticks; 1 (12-ounce) basket fresh strawberries, hulled, sliced; 1 (6-ounce) basket fresh raspberries; 1 (4.4-ounce) basket fresh blueberries; 1 pint vanilla bean gelato or ice cream
Directions: Combine the wine, water, sugar, star anise, and cinnamon sticks in a heavy large saucepan. Add all but 1/2 cup of each of the berries. Bring the liquids to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently until the fruit is very tender, about 10 minutes. Cool slightly. Discard the star anise and cinnamon sticks. Transfer the berry mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain the soup through a fine mesh strainer and into a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until very cold, stirring occasionally, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day ahead. Cut the reserved strawberries into small pieces. Place a small scoop of vanilla bean gelato or ice cream in the center of 8 decorative dessert glasses or soup bowls. Divide the mixed berry soup among the glasses, being careful to pour around the gelato. Sprinkle the reserved berries over the soup and serve immediately. Thank you to Giada De Laurentiis for a delicious mixed berry soup with gelato recipe. Doing research on berry information is when I learned that people really do make soup from berries. You can heat it up and use it as a topping or throw some whipped cream on it for a cold topping. Sounds delicious! AK Fairbanks
Strawberry fun facts. The link above takes you to a fun fact about strawberries site that gives you instructions on how to pick strawberries and just fun facts about berries. One of my favorite facts that I read was, “Processing, such as cooking and freezing berries do not affect the phytochemical properties that they contain! This means that value-added products, such as our nectars, ciders, & jams etc… are still high in the healthy stuff!!!” (Fun Facts About Strawberries, Laura, Southern Grace Farms). Often times you find that a certain way of cooking foods can cause them to loose their nutritional value. For example, with vegtables, I don’t like to steam them because all the nutrients falls into the juice at the bottom of the pot. Another thing I thought was cool about the site was that it included how to say the word “strawberry” in a few different languages.AK Fairbanks
Online News Article and Radio/Web Broadcast: The Secret Life of California’s World-Class Strawberries
Charles, Dan. 2012. The Secret Life of California’s World-Class Strawberries. National Public Radio. Available online: Strawberries. Accessed: 7 October, 2016.
Comments: Here’s an article and associated radio/web broadcast about commercial strawberry production in California, from NPR’s “The Salt, what’s on your plate”. The authors briefly discuss a broad range of topics from genetics and cloning to Fusarium wilt to field trials with soilless growing media. Although the article is not overly scientific, it is interesting to get a snapshot of current drivers behind commercial production. High yields and disease resistance remain at the top of the list but market desire for organically produced fruit have forced growers to adapt newer methods.
Online Radio/Web Broadcast and Article: Bigger, Blander, Blegh: Why Are Strawberries Worse?
Block, Melissa. 2012. Bigger, Blander, Blegh: Why Are Strawberries Worse? National Public Radio. Available online: Strawberry flavor. Accessed: 7 October, 2016.
Comments: The broadcast explores the tendency of strawberries today to be big and not so flavorful, the answers aren’t too surprising. Marvin Pitts, of Cornell, also discusses how toselect the best strawberry at the store. CZ Anchorage
This is an interesting article about an innovative, Japanese company, Ichigo, whose vertical strawberry farm, shows technological promise for boutique, urban strawberry production and possible franchise-able business opportunities. While novel, its implications on small-scale, indoor, photosynthetic, food production facilities remain far more interesting than the $5.00 per berry price tag
Koga, Hiroki. 2016. How a Japanese Vertical Farm is Growing Strawberries using LED for the First Time. Available online: Strawberries
. Accessed: 29 September 2016
Video This link takes you to a time lapse of a strawberry plant growing. It shows a flower growing and maturing and just one strawberry fruit forming. Where the plant was, apparently it did not have enough energy to produce much more than what is in the video, but the strawberry looks delicious! I think this video was made a little late in the process only because we can see old places of fruit that matured earlier. Other than that, pretty cool 1:50 minute video. AK Wasilla
Who needs Dirt?
I really want to grow a nice, easy to care for, patch of productive strawberries in my garden. This has been one of my goals ever since I began caring for said garden, but I just never could seem to find the time or come up with a good plan that would be easy to implement and easy to care for. In the past few years I have begun to make connections and friendships with the people at the local co/op in the Delta Jct. area. I have found in them to be a wonderful group of people; who are willing and eager to answer all questions about my garden and have helped me to learn and try new methods for working both in my vegetables and my berry crops. Some of these kind people have even come out to where I live to look at my garden and give me hands on advice about fertilizers, watering methods, soil content, and weed prevention along with a myriad of other hints and tips.
Along with the professionals who work full time, the co/op also recently hired a local lady from Delta who is a long time Alaska gardening and has a great deal of practical knowledge and experience with gardening in Alaska. She and I have become friends and she has come out a few times to visit my garden as well. Just this last July she came out and we began talking about growing this and that. She brought up the topic of Straw Bale Gardening and asked if I had ever heard of it. I had not so she gave me a quick synopsis of how it was done; she then mentioned that strawberries could be grown in this way as well and that really piqued my interest. I have since done some research of my own and am intrigued by the whole idea. The info that I have found says that strawberries are an ideal candidate for growing in straw-bales and hay-bales, at least the annual varieties of berries are. Because of the plants compact size and small root systems many can be planted in one bale and are protected very well from pests and weed infestation. The straw bales are relatively easy to set up, don’t take up much room, and after the year is done the old worn out bales can be composted further and tilled back into the garden or simply used as mulch. Simple and not wasteful; I am eager to try out this method of berry growing next summer to see if it will work for me. I was wondering if anyone had any advice as to the best variety of annual strawberries to grow in Alaska and if they knew of any good suppliers of transplants that I could order from. Here are a few links to sites that have good information both on berry growing in bales and veggie growing in bales. I also found a few good Youtubes that show how to implement the methods, just look up (straw-bale gardening youtubes) and watch some of them. AB Delta Junction
. Accessed Sept. 18,
By No Dig Vegetable Gardening. Straw Bale Gardening. Available online: http://www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com/straw-bale-gardening.html. Accessed Sept. 18, 2016
Straw Bale Gardening. Available Online: Sept. 18, 2016
Thought it was interesting how this article broke down some of the types of Alaskan strawberries and how they grow here. Rader, H. 2015. Untangling the confusion of growing strawberries in Fairbanks. Available online:http://www.newsminer.com/features/sundays/gardening/untangling-the-confusion-of-growing-strawberries-in-fairbanks/article_e659c6ac-1d25-11e5-9ab6-ff4c5f76e46e.html Accessed on 14 Sep 2016.
Sensitivity to day length/night length
I got a question about which plants are day-sensitive and if there was a list. Wouldn’t that be a nice list to have? But boy would that be a nice list to have? It would be a long and complicated list that would need to be updated as new cultivars were developed. It doesn’t help that the terminology is not intuitive or indicative of the actual day/night length needs of the plants. It makes sense if you live in the lower 48. But in Fairbanks, Alaska, there is nothing about “June bearer” that indicates a need for short days. I wrote this article awhile back to help people better understand the importance of day length on strawberries.
I found this video and found it particularly interesting. You cannot see the strawberries on the ground or the plants themselves because of the large amount of ground cover but yet there is still a crop of berries growing there. Makes me wonder what kind of environmental conditions that strawberries need in particular to flower and produce berries. Digstravel33. 2012. Strawberry Picking In Gustavus Alaska, Avaliable online:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cODDKWosfoQ Accessed 14 Sep. 2016.
If you are ever driving trough Ottawa here is a farm to check out growing strawberries, raspberries and Saskatoons. They include recipes for each berry with their descriptions. Nice pictures. Berry farm recipes
Have you heard about Pineberry? This berry looks like strawberry, but it is white with red seeds! Apparently this is the oldest variety of strawberries. Originally strawberries were white in South America. Pineberry was saved from extinction by breeders working exclusively with VitalBerry BV when the original source material was discovered in Southern Europe. The breeders used this source material to cross it with an existing variety to improve the original pineberry. Read more: Pineberries
I was wondering if there are much of wild strawberries in Alaska. They are really popular in Russia. Wild Strawberries in Russia
t’s close to the time of year when strawberry plants need to be tucked in for the winter. This website offers detailed advice on the whens, hows, and whys of mulching strawberries. Wintering Strawberries. There are links to more useful strawberry information including overwintering strawberries in containers.