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We’re excited to welcome to the VIGA site quest contributor Patty Hieb, who will be bringing the Marshall strawberry to the Vashon Farmers Market in the coming weeks. What’s so special about the Marshall strawberry? Read further as Patty shares its berry sweet history, and details of its re-emergence here on Vashon Island.
A Marshall Strawberry Rebirth
What is sweet, juicy, and described by James Beard as “the tastiest berry ever grown?” Why, the delicate and delicious Marshall strawberry, of course! You mean “the” Marshall strawberry? That’s right! This humble little gem is an heirloom variety that a great part of Vashon and Maury Island history was laid upon. Discovered in Massachusetts in 1880 and brought here by Japanese farmers, the yummy Marshall was once the dominant strawberry grown in this area. In the early 1900s forests had been cut and berry farms flourished for many decades. Marshall strawberries were sugared and sent in wooden barrels throughout the country for people to enjoy and Vashon celebrated this wonderful harvest with an annual Strawberry Festival. Sadly, over time the berry farms were phased out due to out-of-state competition, transportation costs and the spread of disease. The sweet Marshall all but disappeared and in 2004 was listed as one of the ten most endangered foods in the United States by RAFT (Renewing America’s Food Traditions). Only a hint of these plants existed and a few carefully protected ones were being maintained at the USDA’s Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon.
When Patty Hieb and her husband Hooper Havekotte bought part of what used to be a previous berry farm on Maury Island last year, they were delighted to learn of the Marshall’s history there. They purchased their place from octogenarian Helen Brocard, whose Croation family (the Kranjcevichs) homesteaded in Dockton and had a large berry farm that included Marshall strawberries. So loved were the berries that decades after they had been lost to the island, Helen obtained some from the Corvallis Repository to grow again. The plants in Dockton are considered to be the only virus-free Marshalls back on the island. Happily this rare little berry is slowly experiencing a resurgence among foodies across the country, providing a delicious alternative to the hard, white strawberries with hollow centers and little flavor that we often receive from California. Chances are you’ve never been lucky enough to eat these sweet little morsels. However Patty thought it would be fun to share their Marshall wealth and thus lucky visitors to the Vashon Farmers Market this month and in May will be able to purchase Marshall plants that Helen so lovingly kept growing on her family property. Stop by the Market’s Co-op booth to talk with Patty about their history and purchase some to start your own berry patch.
The Vashon Farmers Market takes place on Saturdays through December, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on the Village Green (17505 Vashon Highway South, 98070)
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Vashon Island Growers Association Attn: Market Buck Match P. O. Box 2894 Vashon, WA 98070
When Food Stamp recipients use their benefits at the Vashon Farmers Market, VIGA's Market Buck Match program matches what they spend, up to $10 per visit. We also offer a 100% match for WIC fresh fruits and vegetables vouchers.
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