We have a new love at Terra Firma Farm, and her name is Sweet Ann.
We’d been looking for a new berry for several years, spending hours on the internet scrolling through profiles and getting excited about promising new varieties: Great flavor! Firm but melting texture. Vigorous plants. We would conduct trials where we grew a small amount of each, a sort of “Strawberry speed dating”. Few lived up to their promise. Swipe left.
Much is made of “terroir” in the wine world, but strawberries also have an important interaction with the place they are grown, its soil and climate. Most strawberries in California are grown near the coast, but varieties that grow well and tasty good where it’s cool and foggy can taste bland and insipid when grown here and vice versa. And we need our berries to have big plants that shade the fruit from the hot sun, which is not a concern for coastal farmers.
At the time we were in an unfulfilling relationship with two strawberries. Chandler and Camarosa, were both wonderful in their own ways, but also had major downsides. Chandler was delicious — some people believe it to be the sweetest berry variety — but it produced erratically and is overly perishable, especially when the weather gets hot. And as the season went on, the berries would get smaller and smaller, requiring more and more time to harvest a box. Camarosas made big berries with giant leaves that shaded them from the sun and produced more reliably, but the flavor was frustratingly inconsistent: sometimes delicious, sometimes completely bland.
Neither berry was meeting all our needs.
We first met Sweet Ann in 2020 when she was the clear stand-out in that year’s variety trial. She made big, beautiful and delicious fruit in abundance on healthy, happy plants that provided plenty of shade. Still, it was just a trial, and the pandemic had just started — we were mostly focused on other things. So in 2021, we grew a larger test block of the Sweet Ann alongside our other varieties so we could compare its performance. The results were clear to everyone.
We had found our true strawberry love.
This year, we “moved in” with Sweet Ann and committed to her 100%, with no regrets so far. It is truly remarkable how the berries are consistently aromatic and delicious. They are extremely dependable and predictable, so we can accurately predict how much we will be harvesting from one day to the next. And the harvest crew loves them because they are so fast to pick, thanks to their large size.
For you, our subscribers, there’s another reason to love the Sweet Ann other than how good they taste: they should keep for several days in your fridge without shriveling up or turning soft. Of course, you will probably eat them more quickly than that anyway, but it’s a nice bonus.