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Poor Megan, Maria & John.

Every day in Beekman World brings a new, unexpected challenge. Recently, while we were traveling halfway across the country, they got this email from us:

“Hey Guys…We just found out that our four Marshall Strawberry plants have been shipped. It’s looks like it’s going to be below zero so they won’t survive long sitting on the porch.  Can you keep a lookout for them? There’s only 600 of them in the world, we can’t let them die!!!!!!!!!!”

We got hourly updates for the next two days:

“No strawberries yet.”

“Not yet.”

“Still no berries.”

“THEY’RE HERE! WE GOT THEM! THEY’RE ALIVE!!! GETTING READY FOR TRANSPLANT….”

Once again, they saved the day. Or in this case, they saved some culinary history.

Here’s what they (potentially) saved. Worth it, right?

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Marshall strawberries were once one of the most favored strawberry varieties in the world. First discovered in Boston in 1883, it achieved peak popularity and propagation West Coast, where it once filled field after field of Washington, Oregon & California farms.

Why was it so popular? For the right reason: it tasted amazing. James Beard himself declared the Marshall: “the most delicious strawberry ever grown.” The sugar content is so naturally high that they only last hours after ripening…not days. When Queen Elizabeth and King George VI visited Vancouver, farm workers were sent into the fields to pick the ripest berries for a royal luncheon, and Canada’s custom regulations were waived to allow the fruit to enter the country without any delay.

But by the mid 1960’s, there was hardly a Marshall strawberry field to be found. Why? We’ve told this next part of the story so many times we could copy and paste it from an old post:

With the rise of our present day industrial food production and distribution network, the [insert great tasting heirloom vegetable/fruit] became extinct due to its susceptibility to disease, fragility during transport, and short shelf life.

Except the Marshall didn’t go extinct. But only just barely. A single clone of the Marshall was saved by the USDA’s Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon.

We’re not sure naming something a “Germplasm” is great marketing, but whatever. Thank you, USDA, for saving the Marshall.

In 2004, it was named one of the ten most endangered foods in the USA by the RAFT (Renewing America’s Food Traditions) coalition.  And in 2007, an artist named Leah Gauthier requested some runners from Corvallis, and since she planned on growing them for food, not research, they agreed. She’s since propagated additional plants from runners, and now has enough for sale. But just barely. Only 600 small plants are available this year.

The plants are shipped in these cute little “pouches.”

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Each has a little tag with the plant’s individual number. We have 21-24 out of 2013’s batch of 600:

 

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They also come with explicit directions for transplanting indoors (if your season is cold right now) or out. And certificates of authenticity:

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Because we believe in both biodiversity of our food supply (that’s a fancy way of saying “healthy choices,”) and saving history, we’ve decided to make Beekman 1802 Farm a permanent home for the Marshall, and are dedicating an entire bed to propagating them.

These plants aren’t cheap. So we’re starting with four, and will grow them out season by season until the bed is full. But we believe the investment is well worth it to save this important variety. So far they’re looking good:

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Even got a new shoot forming!

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Nice sunny window…waiting till spring…IMG_7434Wanna help us save the Marshall?

You can learn more and order online here.  Because of their scarcity and fragility in shipping, they do come at a price, but there are options at the link that make them cheaper.

Plus…think of the reward. Mmmmm.

OR, if you’re lucky enough to live around Brooklyn, you can come pick up plants at Brooklyn Flea, March 16 +17, and save the shipping fees entirely!

Please let us know if you purchase any. We’d love to be “Marshall cousins” with you. We’ll update you on our progress as the season progresses, and will certainly share pics of the first (knock wood) fruit.

What should we make with the first berries?

 

 

 

Comments38

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  • By: mary

    I live in Vancouver, WA. I send marshall plants, 3 per requests as I have them available for only the cost of shipping priority…which right now is $6.80. My email is dancermm@comcast.net

  • By: Shelly A.

    I’m a little late reading this post, so missed the spring 2014 plants. Although have purchased 4 plants for fall planting. Very excited to get the plants in August! Thank you Josh and Brent for sharing!

  • By: Gary Verostko

    I bought #143 late April in Bloomington. I nursed the plant and its shoots in small pots, fertilized with fresh aerated compost tea and minerals, and began planting into the garden in early September. I placed 25 plants under mulch before the winter set in. Since then it has been somewhat severe, yesterday the temp was -12 at lowest. If these babies survive I envision great times growing them and tasting their fruit. If they multiply next year like this year I could have a nice patch after 3 years. I paid $30 for one plant.

  • By: joel

    Love to help, but the price will have to come down some what first.
    I would even give some of the sister away to spread the plants, but I think
    $ 20.00 is high for one plant, so $65.00 in not even a question.
    Joel

  • By: puu

    dear josh and brent, thank you for posting such an interesting idea! i was so inspired that i adopted two for my little garden in ulster county, NY. i look forward to seeing your adventures with the berries!

  • By: Ashling

    Just ordered two…Have been obssessed & considering it for weeks since reading the blog post, and, well….here goes! We’re thinking of naming them Josh & Brent!

  • By: Stacey

    Just ordered one and will pick it up at the Flea this weekend!

  • By: Amy Smith Wexler

    I just sold my old bike, tires and a dog crate on craigslist. Now I have enough for two plants plus shipping and handling. Please god may I do them right!

  • By: Jo Ann

    I don’t know how rare they are, but a friend shared some Ozark Beauty strawberry plants with me last fall. I had never heard of this variety. They are coming along in my Seattle p-patch. I tasted the berries last summer and they were heavenly. Very sweet with a true strawberry taste, and I’m told, also quite perishable.

  • By: RAY

    Strawberries are wonderful! Good Luck with your growing them. Blessings….

  • By: Jane

    I love strawberries. Are these small? Those giant ones you buy in the store are not very tasty. Good luck with your new adventure!

  • By: Kathy

    Just order two and will pick them up at the Flea Market. I have been wanting to go check it out so now I have an excuse. I think the first thing I will make with them is champagne and strawberries!!! my favorite way to eat strawberries!

  • By: Grace Papaseraphim

    I love the flea and haven’t been since the summer. Maybe this will get me there. I adore a good strawberry. Thanks for the heads up!

  • By: Delia D.

    You should eat the first berries all by themselves in their purest form. And then I’d suggest some old fashioned shortcake. Good luck, I hope they all survive & thrive! 🙂

  • By: Missy

    Can’t afford to order them right now 🙁 Maybe next season….I saved the website under Favorites.

  • By: Missy

    A STRAWBERRY SMOOTHIE so you get the full flavor of the strawberries. Yum!

  • By: Kate's Daughter

    One of the few drawbacks of moving to Florida is the lack of ability to have a true garden. Good luck with the Marshalls. I hope you are able to grow an entire field in a few years!

  • By: Chaddan Farms

    We just ordered our Marshall Strawberry Plants. We are looking forward to receiving them and getting updates on how your plants are doing in their new Beekman Bed. Chad and Dan.

  • By: Beth

    I just ordered 3 and can’t wait to get them. My little town is now totally suburban, but used to be primarily farms…most of them strawberry. I’ve been meaning to plant some for years & now I will! Thank you for sharing this.

  • By: Kimberly

    you guys are wonderful! thank you for investing in our food chain!

  • By: Marie Chilcote

    Here in Marysville, Washington, we have a strawberry festival every year. Maybe there are some Marshall strawberries. I have no idea what are the names of the strawberries in my garden, but they sure are good.

  • By: Dorothy Hayes

    Thanks for sharing and thanks for caring. Beekman Farm will be saving a part of our history.

  • By: CJ

    hhhmm, that looks like the strawberry plants I bought from our local farm here in Canada.
    Could it be? I guess, we’ll have to find out come spring when all these snow are gone; though we’ve heard from the news that we are expecting more snow to come within the next 2-3 days (sigh)…

  • By: Nicole

    Happy to be a “Marshall Cousin” – just ordered and can’t wait to get them.

  • By: Donna Shaw

    Strawberry freezer jam because it will taste like you just picked it. If you cook it, it won’t taste fresh off the plant.

  • By: darcell

    Wowo $30 for one plant if you pick up or $65 for one plant with shipping and handling. Oh dear goodness. Jackie and Dave don’t read this. Well, I guess it is like buying a piece of history and carrying it on. I try to garden but then it seems we get these really hot days and whatever I was growing dies. I wish the best to you and these strawberries. I’m so excited I”m a llama status,

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