Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Strawberries and Scented Geraniums! What a combo!

Strawberry Social

When I think of June, I think strawberries! And then I think scented geranium sugar! They are such a great combo-I love dipping my strawberries in this yummy confection. And what about scented geranium cake? So here's a mix of gardening and cooking information-and that's another great combo!


Strawberries are perfect for the home gardener. They form an attractive ground cover with pretty white flowers, followed by juicy fruit. The fruit is easy to pick and is versatile. Enjoy the berries straight from the garden, cook with them or freeze them for a taste of summer when it's cold outside. It's surprising how many berries you can grow in even a small patch. Think you don't have room to grow strawberries? Think again. How about a hanging basket? Do you have a narrow side yard? Or a patch beside a building? My strawberries grow beside our gazebo. Although, they prefer full sun, mine are growing quite happily in two part shade areas and produce a surprising amount of fruit. Last year when we had some construction done around the gazebo, I moved some plants to a narrow garden at the side of the house. What a great use of a space that is often neglected or worse, paved!
Strawberries are thriving in this 2 x 3 meter space behind our gazebo. The bricks allow me to pick the berries without crushing the plants.

A narrow side yard is a perfect place for strawberries! I started this one last fall. A soaker hose makes it easier to water this area. The plan is to add some mulch, but who knows when I'll get around to that? You might think that the brick stepping stones are to access this area...but the squirrels seem to think the bricks make perfect little tables for eating my strawberries!


Strawberries can be grown in most garden soils. Of course, they grow best in well-drained, sandy loam soils which are well supplied with organic matter-but really doesn't everything grow better in awesome soil? Mine are growing in some fairly nasty clay. Adding sand and good compost to clay really improves the drainage and soil tilth. Strawberries do not like their roots to be wet, so make sure the area you do choose has good drainage. You can plant on ridges if you have drainage issues. 

Previous Crops

Wherever possible, plant strawberries in soil which has not grown strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers or eggplants in the past 4 or 5 years. This precaution will help avoid serious root diseases such as Verticillium wilt and black root rot.


I used a slow release granular organic fertilizer in April. The plants are VERY happy! I plan to fertilize again in late summer with the same fertilizer. 

Renewing an Old Patch

Strawberries produce best in their second and third year. Beds with older plants don't produce well and are more susceptible to disease. About four weeks after the harvest, thin out your plants, removing any old plants and transplanting younger plants to fill in the bed evenly. Make sure you water your transplants well. My plants always tend to "sulk" after I've transplanted them, but they rarely die. This is also a good time to fertilize with manure or compost. I always plan to renew my beds every 2-3 years. Doesn't always happen that way though...


Sawdust, straw or other mulching materials are a great way to keep down weeds, conserve moisture and keep the fruit clean. I always plan to mulch my strawberries, but I seem to be lacking in the actual execution of that task...

Scented Geraniums

I wish I could remember who first told me that scented geranium sugar is a great pairing with strawberries. There are all kinds of different scented geraniums-rose, lemon, mint, spice-I happen to use a really strong scented Pelargonium citrosa-it's sold as a mosquito repellent and sometimes called Citronella. I've no idea if it repels mosquitoes, but it sure does repel my husband! Last time I made scented geranium sugar I found him sitting out on the front porch and refusing to come back in until "that smell" has dissipated. There are a lot of other scented geraniums that might be yummier, but I happen to love the results I get with this one. So I just give the husband some warning before I decide to make the concoction. 

Growing Scented Geraniums

Well, you grow them pretty well like regular potted geraniums-the annual kind, not the perennial kind. (Scented geraniums are actually pelargoniums, not geraniums and their common name is "storksbill". "Geraniums" are the perennial plants that are also called "cranesbill". Luckily growing them is less confusing than explaining their names...) 

Grow them in a sunny location, good potting soil and water. They're actually fairly drought tolerant. Bring your plant in before the frost and keep it in a sunny window. You can also easily start new plants from cuttings in the spring. 

Making Scented Sugar

You can use almost any kind of leaf to flavour sugar-just make sure the kind you choose is edible and not toxic! Try any kind of scented geranium, or mint, lavender, thyme, rosemary. Or how about scented violets or rose petals? 

  • Wash the leaves and dry them. 
  • Using a clean, dry jar, add a leaf/leaves and then cover with a layer of sugar. 
  • Repeat until your jar is full. 
It doesn't take long for the sugar to acquire the "flavour" of whatever leaf you used. I use the sugar, leaves and all to flavour a variety of foods.

Using your Scented Sugar

  • My favourite-dip strawberries in scented geranium sugar, place strawberry in mouth!
  • Dust the tops of scones, cookies, baked goods
  • Rim the glass of a fancy drink
  • Use in teas, lemonade, punch

Scented Geranium Cake

This is an old "Madame Benoit" recipe. (I don't think she was often referred to by her first name of "Jehanne". She was my favourite chef when I was first married and I still use a number of her recipes.)

  • Butter
  • granulated sugar
  • scented geranium leaves (her recipe called for rose geraniums)
  • 1/4 cup soft butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup of flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 2 egg whites
  1. Butter an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan; sprinkle lightly with sugar. Arrange 4-6 leaves in pan.
  1. The leaves make a crispy, edible pattern on this old-fashioned pound cake.
  2. In mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add lemon juice and beat with electric mixer at medium speed for 5 minutes.
  3. In small bowl, beat egg yolks until thick and pale yellow; add to creamed mixture, beating at medium speed for 4 minutes.
  4. Sift together flour, salt and baking soda. Add by spoonfuls to creamed mixture, beating thoroughtly after each addition.
  5. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry; fold into batter. Bently spoon batter into prepare pan.
    The creamed part of the batter is quite stiff and you have to gently fold the eggs in. The batter barely fills the pan. 
  6. Bake in 350° oven for about 25 minutes or until tester inserted in center comes out clean.
    Cake is fairly pale when it comes out, but the underside should be a lovely golden colour.
  7. Let cool on rack for 5 minutes. Invert onto serving plate and carefully lift off pan.
    Perfect for your strawberry social tea!

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