Garden Fresh: Strawberry Fields for a While

Gardening is war in Houston, for the most part voluntary, so when I get my ass kicked by bugs, squirrels, worms, brutally hot sun, tree rats, subtropical diseases and, this year, drought, I can't really complain.

I assumed strawberries would be the most attractive crop to the enemy, and thus pointless, but I got duh-smacked by a reminder of the Pasadena Strawberry Festival. Of course strawberries grow here.

Still, I didn't put much investment in it--just one 99-cent plant, Sequoia variety, from Southwest Fertilizer--and I planted it in a regular pot, not a ridiculous strawberry pot with holes all over. It required some well-draining soil, consistent moisture with no water-logging, and apps of fertilizer every three weeks.

Sure enough, flowers bloomed, and strawberries grew from the flowers. They were small, but plentiful, for about three weeks. For the effort, I got about 99-cent worth of superior strawberries.

Martha Swanner of Buchanan's Native Plants (611 E. 11th ), which is where I should've gone in the first place, informed me that a Sequoia bears the smallest fruit, while a Quinalt variety produces the largest berries. Chandler and Ozark Beauty are two other tasty varieties for Houston.

Martha told me I should plant earlier, in January, to get more rooting and increased yield. The plants continue to grow after fruiting, but fade in the summer heat, so most gardeners dig them up and start over next year.

Now through June is the best time for store-bought strawberries. Cinco de Mayo nears, so fresh strawberries go into frozen margaritas. Don't break out the Chinaco, Cointreau or Key limes for these, as nuances get lost in a slush.

Mindless Margaritas

  • 1½ ounces tequila (6 parts)
  • ¾ ounces triple sec (3 parts)
  • ¾ ounce lime juice (3 parts)
  • ½ ounce simple syrup (2 parts)
  • 2 fat strawberries for each serving (not a guy option)
  • A fistful of ice for each serving
  • Blender into a fine slush. Rocks Margaritas don't need simple syrup, but for some too-scientific reason the slushy ice makes them too tart. Two strawberries make a tart pink drink; three make a weird alien red.

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    John Kiely
    Contact: John Kiely