Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Picking Strawberries the Futuristic Way

Spring is strawberry picking time in Texas. When my oldest child, was around two- or three-years-old, I brought him to Boggy Creek Farm, less than 3 miles from downtown Austin, to pick our own strawberries. This was your typical old-fashion farm. The white clapboard house has a front porch with rockers, and chickens roam the property.  The plants are laid out in the small fields in tidy rows. Sam Houston attended a wedding here back in 1841. Nowadays, the farm stand supplies many Austin restaurants and locavores plus sells the most amazing Smoke-dried Tomatoes.

What I remember most about that visit over a decade ago is my son's Godzilla imitation. He gleefully stomped on any strawberry plant he could reach before I had a chance to pick him up and carry him away. I was mortified! I meekly approached the farm stand and confessed what he'd done. Luckily, it was the end of the harvest season, and they were planning on pulling up all the strawberry plants the next day. Phew!

Perhaps that's why I never made the long drive out to pick strawberries at Sweet Berry Farm in Marble Falls, even though almost everyone swears that it's a great excursion with the kids.

Ten years later and a move to a new country gave me the courage to try it again. This weekend, we drove up to the Cameron Highlands to escape the Malaysian tropical heat. One of the biggest area attractions is its strawberry farms and dessert cafes. Strawberry souvenirs abound everywhere. So, we made sure to stop at the Big Red Strawberry Farm.

This is NOT an old-timey farm. This is the farm of the future.

Instead of an open field, we were in a greenhouse. Considering how much it rains, especially during monsoon season, I understand why they'd put it under cover.

Godzilla-boy no more

Instead of putting plants directly in the ground, these were grown hydroponically on racks with strawberries about 3 feet off the ground and parsley planted below it. A drip watering system ran up and down the rows providing a carefully controlled amount of nutrient-rich water. They grew lettuce in the greenhouse, too.

Hydroponically grown Green Coral Lettuce

They handed us scissors and a plastic basket, and we headed out to harvest. I can tell you one thing. Picking berries grown on racks is much easier on the joints than having to bend down and pluck them from the ground! With three kids hard at work, it didn't take us long to gather enough berries for our family. And no plants were trampled on this outing. Yay!

Be sure to leave a little stem on the berry to extend its shelf life.

Afterwards, we swung through the gift shop where, as you can imagine, strawberry themed products ruled the shelves. Interestingly, the dried strawberries had a hint of licorice flavor, probably because anise is a popular ingredient in the local food. The cafe had a mouth-watering selection of strawberry items plus a salad bar of greens hydroponically grown on site. We ordered the strawberries with cream, and my girl's eyes lit up when she heard the whooshing noise of cream squirting out of the pressurized canister. The muffins were quite delicious, too. I wasn't expecting much since Asian baked goods are just barely sweetened, but this one satisfied my American palate just fine.

All in all, it was a great experience. I'd gladly go back any time.

Related post:
A Slice of England in the middle of Malaysia

1 comment:

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