STRAWBERRY

STRAWBERRY

The term Fragaria vesca derives from a Latin denomination that alludes to its fragrant perfume. The Romans were great consumers; in fact, during the patrician banquets, strawberries were never lacking. The strawberry, which grows wild in many of Europe's forests, has for centuries accompanied the concept of "good fruit", delight of the palate, and symbol of love. Virgil calls it "nascentia fragra", in the Middle Ages is was known as "fruit of the heart", Louis XIV had it grown in the gardens of Versailles, and Shakespeare calls it "food for fairies". The history of the strawberry in Europe has for centuries been linked to the picking of berries and wild plants of the undergrowth, or sporadic cultivation of the native species F. Vesca, viridis, and the Hautbois strawberry. In reality, actual cultivation began in 1623 when the Virginiana species was imported into France from North America, and the Chiloensis species from Chile in 1712, which produced much larger fruit. The strawberries that are on the market today are derived from crosses between European varieties and American ones, and sometimes exceed 30 grams in weight. The strawberries are "false fruits" that are derived from the swelling of the receptacle, while the real fruits are the tiny "seeds" which are located on the outside of the fruit. The plant is "vine-like" in that it emits branches that stretch across the ground (stolons), which show other roots and leaves from which new plants grow. The reproduction of strawberries is not based on seeding, but on the cultivation of the seedlings that grow from the stolons. In general, strawberry plants need to undergo a period of cold before producing flowers and fruits. After this condition, the different varieties produce flowers depending on the length of the day. In this way, the plants can differ and either be long /short day type, which differentiates the flowers in the winter and then emits them all together in the following spring, or short night/long day type or resprouting, which differentiates the flowers when the length of the day exceeds 14 hours and then produces flowers from spring to summer. Finally, there are the neutral species, which are indifferent to the length of the day and can produce flowers at any time of the year, provided the temperature conditions are adequate and that they have passed the cold period.
Strawberries, from a nutritional standpoint, have a pretty low caloric value: about 30 Kcal/100 g of fresh product. They are rich in minerals and vitamin C and strengthen the body's natural defenses. In susceptible individuals, they can cause allergies.

CULTIVATION

The strawberry lives well in fresh and slightly acidic soils, like those of the undergrowth. It has great difficulties growing in calcium-rich soil, as some loamy soils or those rich in limestone might be. In any case, a strong fertilization with manure is very useful to growing this plant that removes the three major elements in the proportion of 1:0,4:1,6.
This means that for a production of 2 kg / sqm, one will have to add 6-8 kg / sqm of compost, 20 g of triple superphosphate, and 40 g of potassium sulphate. On top of the soil will later be evenly distributed 50g of ammonium nitrate or 100g of guano. The cultivation can be done with a variety of long /short day and refrigerated plants (which have already undergone the cold period). In this case, the seedlings are planted in July and harvested in September when one can have a first, tasty production, only to get another from spring to summer. A second possibility is to plant re-blooming varieties in early spring, which will progressively bear fruit until late summer. Home gardening can maintain prolonged cultivation for more years on the same ground, provided one fertilizes with phosphorus and potassium during the winter and evenly distributes nitrogen during the good season and removes all the old foliage every autumn. Mulching the soil is important for maintaining a healthy strawberry bed as it helps the plant and the fruit avoid contact with the soil and the spread of disease. With regard to the distances of transplantation, one must take into account an average density of about 7-10 plants per square meter. If one sets the ground on prose (strip of land between two furrows) and covers it with mulch, one can place the plants in double rows 1 meter distant from each other, while the distance between the rows will be 30 cm and 20 - 25 cm on the row.

ADVERSITIES

The cultivation of strawberries remains on the ground for a long time, so it is easily affected by various pathogens. First, there are the diseases that affect the rootage and the collar (Phytophthora cactorum, Rhizoctonia and Verticillium fragarie), which affect the basal zone of the plant or invade the lymphatic vessels leading to the plant's collapse. For these diseases, the only remedy is to not replant on the same plot of land used for the crop in past cultivations and to keep the soil well-drained to avoid stagnant water. The leaves, instead, may be affected by pitting (Mhycosphaerella fragarie), which causes red-violet spotting, or even still, botrytis, which causes the leaves and fruits to mold. Copper-based treatments are effective against these pathogens. In the case of powdery mildew, one can intervene with sulfur-based treatments. With regard to animals, the most feared parasite is the red spider mite (mites), distinguishable by the very fine woven web they weave below the leaves. This can be contained with frequent watering and possibly by releasing the predator mite Phytoseiulus persimilis, which feeds on as many as 7 adult female spider mites per day!