Johann Lang’s youngest customers have only just learned to walk. And when the first little sweet tooth with red-stained faces walk through his plantations, then the season begins for him. Almost two weeks ago he gave the starting signal on eight of his nine strawberry fields in the south and east of the state capital, including in Sauerlach, Putzbrunn and Taufkirchen. Now, at the beginning of June, the fields are at their peak. The children, but also their parents, can fill their stomachs with the sweet fruit while they are picking and at the end hand the filled baskets over to the sales stand to be weighed and paid for, for 2.74 euros a pound of fruit they have picked themselves, for 5.50 euros , when Lang’s employees have collected the strawberries. “They are sweet and taste like wild strawberries,” says Johann Lang, describing this season’s red fruits.
The 52-year-old from Egmating is an old hand in the strawberry business and is celebrating an anniversary this year. In 1972 he tilled a field for the first time and invited the customers to harvest, “and since then he’s learned something new every year and made some changes,” as he says. Of course, some things have remained unchanged. Just like 50 years ago, his days from the end of May to the end of June begin with a look at the sky and recently at three different weather apps, because the biggest enemy of strawberries, alongside constant rain and ground frost, is hail. Lang still remembers the hailstorm on June 22 of the previous year, which destroyed entire grain harvests in the fields around Munich, but not his strawberries or only a small part of them.
The businessman spent a lot of money to be able to protect his fields with hail nets. A one and a half meter wide piece of land remained unprotected at the time, “it looked bad there,” he reports. But not every field can be covered with nets in time, “you have to jump and run, but a few areas get caught anyway, and hail insurance is extremely expensive,” Lang explains the risk that accompanies him every year. There are often long periods of rain of up to two weeks in June, “I don’t even want to think about that now”.
Ten varieties, and each one tastes different
The plants whose fruits end up in the collection baskets this year were planted by Johann Lang in spring 2021. Although with the help of machines, which are manually equipped with strawberry plants. They look much punier than those for sale in garden centers and flower shops for balconies and gardens. “Root and heart and one or two leaves, that’s all there is to it,” says the strawberry farmer. But after their hibernation, they grow into abundantly fruit-bearing plants, while the harvest of the balcony strawberries usually weighs just 200 grams. Lang grows ten selected varieties, each with its own taste nuance, as he says. His secret remains when and where he uses the plants.
What is fixed, however, is the division of each of his cultivation areas into three sections, where the early, the middle and the late strawberries are released for picking one after the other. A one-piece suit used to show people the way to the ripe fruit, but many felt that it was being patronizing. Yellow flags now indicate productive areas. In his case, the fruits were harvested ripe, in contrast to the strawberries intended for retail, which were harvested white and had to redden, but did not reach full ripeness, where the vitamin C value was highest – like his fruits.
What is never used in his fields, “not with letter and seal”, is the total herbicide glyphosate. A few weeks ago, in the Thalkirchen-Obersendling-Forstenried-Fürstenried-Solln district committee (BA), he and other farmers defended themselves against corresponding rumours. “We cannot afford to violate requirements, laws and standards,” Lang emphasized in the BA at the time. And the use of total herbicides is also counterproductive, “I’m destroying my plants with it,” he says today. And because he is in the process of distinguishing his strawberries from the cheaper discounter fruits, he reports on the natural straw substrates on which his plants mature and therefore also tolerate the rain better. With the substrate used in greenhouse cultivation, nobody knows “where the stuff comes from”. He knows that many people still buy cheap strawberries from abroad from Aldi & Co. and says: “But I can’t get a Mercedes for the price of a Japanese rice bowl.” And his fruits are the Mercedes of strawberries, he adds confidently.
He released the last of his new fields in Sauerlach last week, which is always a little later. If you’re unlucky as a strawberry farmer, then the season ends at the beginning of June, normally it runs until mid-June, with a lot of luck, so if the weather cooperates, then “the harvest can take place until the end of June,” says Lang. The first strawberries used to be available on Johanni, i.e. on June 24th, but today customers are already asking for strawberries in April. But he doesn’t do that, he says. Then he goes to the next field. “I have to test the strawberries every day, straight from the field,” he says. When he sees children with red smeared faces running through the rows, he knows that he has done everything right.
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