Regular readers will remember the Strange Case of the Leafy Strawberries. Last year my Malwina (Milvana) fruit grew their own leaves - a condition known as phyllody. Would they, we all wanted to know (yes, you did), do the same this year?
Well, for all those suffering sleepless nights awaiting the result, I can finally say, No, they didn't. Flowers, perfect. Fruit, now ripening. So, it seems likely that the phyllody was induced by physiological strain and, fingers crossed, it won't happen again. Hurrah!
Malwinas are, I was told by Thompson and Morgan, who gave me the runners, too soft for supermarkets. They certainly have a rather luscious, yielding juiciness. I suspect that they aren't enough of a uniform shape, either, as they do tend to have knobbly ends. Quite tangy, they have a good acidity which rounds out the flavour in a way you don't find in the ubiquitous Elsanta, and seem a bit more powerful than Cambridge Favourite.
They've also raised the question of when to pick. I was told that they are an unusually deep red and so have waited to see that before picking. Husband says they've gone over at that point, and that you can tell because the darker fruit feel lighter, which means they are drying out, and the flesh has become mushy.
I don't agree and would argue that our expectations of properly ripe fruit have been distorted by the pale, crunchy juveniles we're sold from the chiller cabinet.
However, I note that anything I classify as totally ripe also has a bite out of it, despite the netting, so have acquiesced and am now picking them before something else does.
How do you judge when a strawberry is ready to pick?