Story & Photo Kate O’Neill
Have you ever bought a punnet of nice-looking strawberries from the supermarket, only to find them watery and flavourless?
The reason is, strawberries are delicate, so in order to stand up to the rigours of our modern food supply chain, they have to be picked slightly underripe, and they don’t ripen any further, which means they never get the chance to develop their sweetness.
The best place to find a full-flavoured strawberry is at the farmers markets. The drastically reduced transport time from farm to market allows the fruit to be picked when it’s fully ripe and at peak sweetness.
Local strawberry grower David Montgomery has been pursuing the perfect tasting strawberry for almost 30 years, and as his customers will attest; he’s nailed it.
David starts with organic rootstock, which he grows in organic potting mix, and then waters with pristine local spring water. The fruit is grown in a custom-made netted area on his property that he is constantly refining and improving to create the ideal growing conditions.
He picks the day before market, and is meticulous in his selection of fruit. On a recent visit to his farm, he asked us to taste two identical looking strawberries. One was beautifully sweet, the other nice, but not quite as good. A slight discolouration on the calyx was the cause of problem he explained, and said although many growers would sell this fruit, it would never make it to his stall.
‘I want people to come back next week. So if I… upset them in any way – and that can mean just one strawberry in the box that’s not quite right – that can mean the difference between them walking in next time, or not walking in at all.’
Monty’s strawberries are at the New Brighton and Mullumbimby Farmers Markets during the local season from July to December.