If you want to watch a pastry chef drool, just mention the strawberry Mara Des Bois. This French variety bred by Jacques Marionnet in 1991 was bred specifically to have the flavour and scent of wild strawberries but with much greater productivity, especially in spring.
Did he succeed? I think the answer to that is yes and no. Despite the fact that Mara Des Bois is not a wild strawberry it does have that intense candy floss, pineapple taste which makes it an unusual flavour bomb to eat. If you are expecting a giant, lush, intently sweet strawberry though you will be disappointed. It is very much on the small side. Mine grow about the size of a Malteser to an acorn and are not overly sweet, more tangy. However if you want the flavour of a wild strawberry but in a bigger package then this could be one for you.
You can buy bare root strawberries for delivery in early spring or in pots for planting in the spring.
Bare roots are normally more economical as they can be sent out in small bundles so save on postage and packaging. They should be planted in early autumn or early spring.
If they arrive during the winter then, as soon as the plants arrive, pot in to some sterile compost and keep in a light and cool but frost free area, such as a porch or conservatory. keeping the compost slightly damp but not wet. Plant out in early spring.
Ready grown pots of strawberries can also be bought, usually in early spring for planting straight away.
Strawberries need to be planted in a bed that has been cleared of all perennial weeds and they will occupy the space for 3-5 years. Dig in 50 litres of compost or well rotted manure for every 2 meters square.
Plant the strawberries in rows with each plant 35cm apart and the rows 75 cm apart. Strawberries should be planted so that the crown is just visible above the surface. Water well. Continue to water well for the next few weeks until the roots are established. If planting perpetual strawberries then remove the first set of flowers but only remove summer ones if the plants look weak.
Protect ripening strawberry’s from birds who will otherwise get them long before you.
Plants will start to become less productive after a few years but they produce runners (mini new plants) from the main plant which can be used to start again. In young plants cut of the runners as soon as they emerge but in the third year, encourage runners to root by pining to the soil or a pot filled with compost using a small piece of wire. You cannot legally take runners from a plant which still has plant patent rights on it. Cut from the main plant once roots have started to form. Allow a maximum of 5 runners per plant and remove any runners you do not want to propagate.
Perpetual variety. Harvest Late June to October
Yield and plant health
Don’t be deceived by catalogue claims. Yes you will get a higher yield than wild strawberries but strawberry size is still very on the small size which means that yields are far below average. Grow it for its interesting flavour, especially if you like wild strawberrys, not for bumper sized fruits to adorn your pavolva.
Plants are small compared to some of the more commercial cultivars and quite sparse on the leaves and I’m always a bit surprised when they get enough energy to fruit. However it does mean that the strawberry’s are much easier to spot.
In the kitchen
I’ll be honest here and say that most of mine never make it to the kitchen as the yield is so small I tend to nibble on them when hungry at the allotment. Probably best for adorning dishes or by themselves with a little sugar. They do not have a long shelf life, up to a couple of days if kept cool but must be served at room temperature to get the best flavour.