along the hillsides of el convento, constanza
The strawberry (Fragaria vesca) is the common name given to the fruit of a perennial herbaceous plant, that though of short productive lifespan, derives from a genus comprised within the Rosaceae family and the Fragaria genus. This family features over 2,000 species of herbaceous plants, bushes and trees distributed worldwide. The fruit is small-sized, featuring a round or conic shape and intense red color. Its pulp is buttery and juicy in texture, offering an extremely sweet flavor. What characterizes the strawberry the most is its intense aroma. Strawberries and garden strawberries are one of the most appreciated fruits, and their ripening evokes, in temperate regions, the arrival of Spring.
Strawberries constitute one of the lightest fruits. Its composition is over 90% water, and features very little fat and carbohydrates. Strawberries are also rich in Vitamin C, Vitamins A and B, as well as potassium and calcium. Its vast water and low sodium content as well as its high concentration of arbutin and enginine, confer it very useful diuretic properties.
For many millennia, wild strawberries have been used as food. Romans were the first people to cultivate strawberries, but not the varieties known in modern times. However, strawberries are native to America, where there are records of its cultivation in Chile as well as the United States. The pilgrims, who arrived in North America in 1620, wrote about the abundance of strawberries they found in their settlements. These early settlers were the first to introduce them in Europe, by way of Virginia, where it was mixed with other varieties thus accentuating its size and flavor. In the 18th century, a Frenchman at the service of Louis XIV, Amedee François Frézier took several examples of the Chilean garden strawberry to France and it is said that the name “strawberry” derived from his surname Eventually, hybrids were made from the Chilean and Virginia varieties, which adjusted the scale and achieved as result a lush and delicious strawberry. More recently, in the 20th century, the popular demand for strawberries expanded worldwide.
A great variety of strawberries exist, some of them quite resistant to cold climates, but overall the strawberry is a crop that adapts very well to many types of weather. Optimal temperature for adequate fruiting ranges around 10°-13°C, as evening temperature and 18° – 22°C, as daytime temperature. Temperatures below 12°C during the growth cycle can result in deformed fruit whereas a very warm period can cause for very rapid ripening and coloration, which impedes the fruit from acquiring proper size. The ideal soils for cultivating strawberries are those catalogued as sandy or sandy loam soils and homogeneously deep. The preferred soils are balanced, rich in organic matter, well-aired, well-drained, but with a certain capacity for water retention. A slightly acid pH is better than a basic one. The optimal pH ranges around 6.5 and even lesser. It is best for the terrain to contain certain amounts of organic soil matter. Also, strawberries require much light and water for their proper development.
All strawberry varieties derived from four main species. The first of these, the wild or forest strawberry, is a fragile species native of the mountains of America and the Antilles. The scarlet or fresh strawberry from Virginia is native to the eastern portion of North America and was introduced in Europe during the 17th century. The Chilean or Beach Strawberry comes from the mountains of the Western Hemisphere. The latter species, which resembles the wild strawberry, common in Central Europe, originated by means of hybridization to the European variety of larger-sized fruits known as garden strawberries. Among the latter, we find the variety known as Queen of the Valley, which prevails in the Spanish market. Also available in this country is the Camarosa variety, which is a larger size fruit native to California, of an extremely bright color, firmness and great flavor. This is the most cultivated variety worldwide. Other varieties include the Tudia, Oso Grande, Cartuno and Charisma.
Strawberry planting and production in the Dominican Republic
Traditionally, strawberries have been cultivated in highlands with cool temperatures such as Constanza and Jarabacoa, but its cultivation can take place in lower zones using varieties which adapt to warmer temperatures. The Constanza valley is one of those locations where myriad varieties of strawberries are produced, the most successful plantations found in La Descubierta, Arroyo Frío and La Cotorra, all located in the strip of 1,500 – 2,000 meters above sea level. Jarabacoa is also an ideal location for planting strawberries, because of its temperatures which range between 16°C – 22°C and also its proximity to rivers, which facilitate irrigation. In San José de Ocoa there is also strawberry production. In this locality, the Camarosa and Alvión varieties have excellent quality, due to growth in terrains with heights equal to 1,800 meters above sea level. Regularly, quality strawberries can be produced within a period of 8 months. The production of this fruit in optimal conditions takes place from October to May, the coolest months of the year.