Strawberries and more…

17 Oct 2007

Strawberry fieldIn today''s busy lives we all need a break to rejuvenate ourselves and relinquish the worries that haunt us. Mahabaleshwar is one such place that helps us rekindle our spirits. Nestled amidst the heights of the Sahyadri mountains, Mahabaleshwar is just a 5-6 hour drive from Mumbai via Pune and Panchgani. The enthralling beauty of the hill ranges and grasslands with rings of fog circling its mountaintops is a treat to ones eye. This picturesque locale also offers exciting trekking expeditions along with various points that provide a breath-taking view. However the most attractive spot that caught our already enchanted eye was the sight of fresh red strawberries bathing in the morning sun.

Mahabaleshwar has long been synonymous with strawberries. And that was the sole reason for us to set out in search of a strawberry farm. With the guidance from the locals there, we reached Archies'' strawberry farm. Situated near a sightseeing location called Kate''s point. This farm was a live example of why Mahabaleshwar was called the ''strawberry country''. We were quite mesmerised by the view that welcomed us in. Rows of luscious strawberry plants were spread till the ends of what our eyes could capture. The array of these plantations in an orderly manner surrounded by little shrubs sheltering them was indeed a pleasing sight. The farmers cultivating strawberries were more than willing to tell us all we wanted to know about strawberry cultivation.

Answering our queries, the farmers informed us that initially strawberries were not grown in large numbers. However, the recent developments of the processing units of brands like Mapro has encouraged them to increase their cultivation and tap the opportunities that opens up with the growing demands. We also discovered that Mahabaleshwar has about 1500 acres of land dedicated to the production of strawberries. The place also had an added advantage as the fields favourable for strawberry cultivation are found only at high altitudes.

Procedures like drip irrigation are used to provide water to these plants. Covered by foils, these little saplings are fiercely protected from direct sunlight and also ensure that they do not touch the ground and become dirty. These fruits start developing from the centre part of a small white coloured flower. Exhibiting extensive purity, these flowers draws parallels to that of the fresh cream. Gradually over time their growth enables the conversion of the colour into a perfect radiant red. The ripening of strawberries occurs during the months of May-June. A visit around that time gives one a marvellous opportunity to be invited by the farmers to pluck these bright little berries. The very thought of ripe red strawberries on a blanket of green plants forced me to make a mental note to be back to the farm next may.

The mere mention of fresh ripe strawberries gave us a healthy appetite. We immediately rushed to the dairy near the farm that was offering a variety of strawberry delicacies. The most recommended dish was the delicious strawberry and fresh cream. The frothing white cream decorated with rosy strawberries displayed a striking contrast. It was even more pleasing to our taste buds and the arrant combination melted in our mouths. This propelled us to order for a second round. The other options that were available included the frosty strawberry ice cream and the frothing strawberry milkshake with reasonable pricing of each within Rs.100.

Later we bought strawberries neatly packed in cardboard boxes to fill us during the rest of the journey. They were available throughout the year even in non-season period with the price being around Rs200 per box.

Having sated our taste buds with fresh strawberries in different forms, we were once again free to enjoy the natural beauty surrounding us. The serene and ethereal ambience seemed to brush all our tiredness away, filling our hearts with new hope and enlivened spirit. A travel to this hill station is incomplete without a visit to this little farm with the best strawberries available between the months of October-May. I don''t know if we returned back more knowledgeable than we were before we visited the farm, but we definitely returned with the taste of fresh strawberries lingering in our mouth.

How to get to Mahabaleshwar

  • By Road — Mahabaleshwar is just 250 km from Mumbai. A 5-hour ride through Panvel, Mahad and Poladpur will help you reach your destination. Volvo buses also ply in regular intervals to this destination. You could also take the route via Pune, which is about 115 km from the destination
  • By Train — Satara is the nearest station to Mahabaleshwar. Once you reach Satara by train, the destination is just one hour travel by road.

1. Strawberries are not just tasty but really healthy. The anthocyanin in strawberries serves as antioxidants that help protect cell structures in the body and prevents oxygen damage in the body organs.
2. Strawberries also contain phenol that protects the heart and has anti-inflammatory properties. Strawberries provide a rich source of Vitamin C and are also called anti-cancer fruits.
3. Choose the strawberry fruits that are medium size, firm and which have a deep red color. Once the Strawberries are plucked, they do not ripen further, hence do not choose fruits, which have green/ yellow streaks or are dull in color.
4. The strawberry is now the most popular fruit in the world. France, Australia, Italy, Japan,United States, New Zealand and Canada are among the largest commercial producers of strawberries.

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