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Kama strawberries are conical to round fruits, varying from small to medium in size depending on the harvest, and have slight tapering to a rounded tip. The skin is glossy and smooth, covered in many small, shallow, yellow seeds. Kama strawberries can be harvested in two different stages. The first stage is when the berries first become ripe. This stage is signified by the skin turning a dark red hue, and the flesh will have a prominent sour flavor. With time, the berries will enter into their second stage of harvest, developing a burgundy, almost black hue with a fragrant aroma. In this stage, the flesh is dense, aqueous, and soft with a rich, sweet flavor.
Kama strawberries are available in the late spring through early summer in Europe and Central Asia.
Kama strawberries, botanically a part of the Fragaria genus, are an early-ripening variety belonging to the Rosaceae family. The sweet, crimson fruits are a popular commercial variety in Eastern Europe and have also become a favorite garden strawberry in Central Asia. Kama strawberries are valued for their resistance to drought, transportability, and adaptability, being able to be grown both outdoors and in greenhouses. In Eastern Europe, the variety is primarily used for commercial processing as the fruits retain their flavor and shape once preserved. In Central Asia, Kama strawberries are planted in dachas, or personal summer gardens, and are harvested multiple times throughout the season for fresh eating and canning. Home gardeners often favor the variety for its unique growth pattern, developing underneath its wide-spreading leaves, which protects the berries from harsh weather and hungry predators.
Kama strawberries are an excellent source of potassium and vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that can help strengthen the immune system and assist in wound healing. The berries also contain fiber, which stimulates the digestive tract and provide some iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and folic acid.
Kama strawberries are best suited for both fresh applications and processed preparations, such as canning. When ripe, the berries can be consumed straight, out-of-hand as a sweet snack, or they can be eaten with sour cream and sugar. Kama strawberries can also be sliced and tossed into fruit and green salads, used as a decorative element on cakes and tarts, juiced for beverages, or blended into sorbets. In addition to fresh applications, Kama strawberries are popularly cooked and reduced into jams, compotes, and syrups. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Kama strawberries are sometimes used to flavor kissel, which is a sweet mixture of pureed fruit, cornstarch, and sugar. Kissel can be used as a condiment, drunk as a beverage, or eaten as is with bread. Cooked Kama strawberries can also be used as fillings for pastries or as a filling for vareniki, which is a berry dumpling. Beyond fresh applications, Kama strawberries can be canned for extended use, and the berry’s sweet flavor is retained through the preservation process. Kama strawberries pair well with cheeses such as goat, gruyere, and brie, herbs such as basil, mint, and coriander, vanilla, cinnamon, raisins, and chocolate. Fresh strawberries will keep 5-7 days when stored unwashed in the refrigerator. The berries can also be sliced and frozen for 6-12 months.
Throughout Central Asia, Kama strawberries are being increasingly cultivated in greenhouses as a part of a growing initiative to provide fresh produce year-round. With the creation of greenhouses, countries such as Russia and Kazakhstan can reduce the consumption of imported fruits during the cold winter season and can provide multiple harvests of strawberries throughout the year at affordable prices. Kama strawberries, when cultivated in a greenhouse, arrive at markets a month earlier than if it is grown outside. The technologically advanced greenhouses use cultivation techniques acquired from established greenhouse companies based in Europe and Eastern Asia, and the first greenhouse was constructed in Kazakhstan in 2015. With this new initiative, varieties such as the Kama strawberry are growing in importance and are being used to study new cultivation techniques to increase production, quality, and flavor.
Kama strawberries were first developed by V. Filevich at an experimental horticultural station in Poland and are a cross between the seng sengana and cavalier varieties. Today the crimson berry is widely cultivated in Eastern Europe and is also grown both commercially and privately as an early-ripening variety in Central Asia.