Love a strawberry? It might of been grown in Sidlesham!

Pickers Marcel Ciucuresca and Madalina Dode at Hargrove Sidlesham

They may have been farming soft fruits in Sidlesham for 18 years, but it doesn’t mean Nick and Kathy Evans have stopped experimenting with new methods.

Trading as Strawberry Fox, Haygrove Sidlesham began as just six acres of land, a caravan and one glasshouse. This year as well as growing plump and juicy Centenary strawberries for customers including Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Noble Foods who supply the Royal garden parties.

The farm is also trialling a new Elizabeth strawberry variety, and a Victoria blackberry which Kathy describes as being full of flavour but with a soft centre.

“They’re doing well on the market,” she says. “It’s like a different creature to the bramble berry.”

SF hamper.php

Kathy also used to do fabulous fresh chocolate strawberry gifts too, sadly no longer as the other side of the business took over (plus she is a published author!!) but the above photo is added for some ideas of other things to do with them. I like to make homemade icecream myself… delish!

Between May and July more than 100 workers from all over the world – but mostly Bulgaria and Romania – come to the farm’s nine sites to help pick in excess of 400 tons of fruit a year including strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. This month’s image shows Marcel Ciucuresca and Madalina Dode working in one of the glasshouses where the strawberries are kept above the ground to make them easier to collect and protect the plants from pests.

Kathy believes there are a lot of misconceptions about glasshouse and polytunnel growing. “If you want to grow for supermarkets in the UK the fruit has to be covered,” she says. “Having glasshouses reduces the need for pesticides – we use an integrated pest management system which keeps the insects we don’t want out, and lets the bees in. We aren’t organic, but we work in a very environmentally friendly way.”

The covers mean the farm isn’t victim to changes in the weather and fruit can be picked in rain or shine. Kathy admits birds do still find their way in though and have been found setting up nests among the strawberry plants.

Visit www.haygrovesidlesham.com

If you stay at either Living or Nature’s Elements you will see the polytunnels and glasshouses locally – there are acres of them! Haygrove is based down Cow Lane (on my favourite dog walk!) so I know many of the workers and the vans which take them too and fro between sites during the day.

The strawberries are gown “in the air” so there is no bending to pick the fruit. The raspberries are in long polytunnels and are tall varieties, likewise the blackberries. I can personally vouch for the fact that they have superb flavour and make you feel fabulous!!

© Chichester Self Catering 2017

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