When I had visited Mahabaleshwar around 20 years ago, I was told that it’s the only place in India where strawberries are grown, and could grow. I was excited to see farms and farms of this cute looking fruit. The products made from fresh strawberries tasted wonderful. It was a satisfying experience.

Over time, strawberries were made available in Bangalore, too. I think they are sourced from Mahabaleshwar, which, in my mind, is still the only place in India where strawberries are grown in bulk.

Imagine my surprise when, last year, my daughter came to me after a school field trip to PCR Garden Mall saying she wanted to grow a strawberry plant at home. I didn’t think it was possible. I was surprised we even get saplings in Bangalore. She was as politely insistent as a child could be and nothing was going to stop me from fulfilling a small desire of a child.

A few days later, my wife bought a strawberry plant from the nursery, when she went there as part of her school field trip. We moved the plant from its temporary pot to a more permanent container and kept the plant in our balcony. We get sunlight for just three to four hours a day there. Knowing flowers and fruits need a good amount of sunlight, I had no expectations from the plant as I thought it was not getting enough sunlight or nourishment in a small pot.

I was pleasantly surprised one morning to see a cute tiny bud peeping out on a stalk. The next day brought more excitement with the bud developing into a flower with white petals. We all rejoiced. Still, I thought that would be the end of the story of strawberries in my house. My daughter, on the other hand, had hope for a fruit growing there. I prepared her to be ready for disappointment.

The next day, the petals fell off the flower. It was like I expected. I thought the flower had died. We didn’t talk much about it. Yet, we were observing it keenly.

After about a couple of days, the flower (without the petals now), was growing bigger. It was green and developing into a fleshy mass. I realized it was growing into a fruit. Everyone in my family were greatly excited. Would we really have a strawberry fruit growing in a pot in a balcony in an apartment in Bangalore? It was against all odds.

At this point of time, I did some research on the Internet about growing strawberries. Nothing I found, said that strawberries could not be grown at home. Neither was there a specific note that someone had grown strawberries in a pot in a balcony with limited sunlight in an apartment in Bangalore. The findings were mixed.

We put in all our care on the plant now, carefully watering it to make sure water was neither too much nor too less. I didn’t use any fertilizers. But I kept removing any dead leaves.

Another bud bloomed but this time, the flower dried and didn’t get fleshy. The first one had turned while and was now turning larger and partly pink. Over the next few days, it became, completely pink and then red as it grew. After about two and a half weeks, it was fully red and 3 to 4 cm long and fleshy. It was an actual fruit.

Other flowers had come up too and were in various stages – just flowers, green flesh, pink masses, half-red.

Almost three weeks after the bud came up, the first flower had become a ripe fruit. It was a kind of dream to see a strawberry fruit in a small pot at home. It was like an improbability had come true.

We had a great “ceremony” plucking the fruit on a Sunday. My daughter did the honours. With all care and love, making sure she didn’t hurt the plant in the process. We offered the fruit to God as Naivedhyam that day and it was shared between my daughter and son (the elders didn’t get anything 😊). My son exclaimed that it really tasted like a real strawberry. He hadn’t expected it too. My daughter was happy and proud.

The plant gave four more fruits. This time, the elders some small pieces for tasting. One fruit went to the children’s friends. We observed that the fruits were on a long stalk, and they pushed it slightly far from the plant. The leaves had grown so as to hide the fruits.

It was wonderful to observe how nature had built its mechanisms:

  •          To ensure that new plants grow at a distance from the mother plant
  •          To protect the attractive fruits from birds.

I thought that was the end of the story. I wasn’t sure if the plant would survive a whole year and bloom the next year. It did grow new leaves and I plucked out the old ones.

It was a surprise to see a new set of buds coming up again over the last week. After growing several leaves, the plant has shot out seven flowers. Two dried up but five of the flowers are on their way to becoming fruits. The journey continues.

I write this post to share the feeling of fulfillment I got from seeing this play of nature. I’ve been wanting to do a little gardening for some time now and thought that a balcony is a limitation. My daughter’s strawberry plant has taught me otherwise. I would recommend my readers to try too – not only strawberries (especially in tropical climates) but any flowering plant. I am sure it can give immense joy and contentment. Go on! Enjoy the wonder of nature in your balcony!

Strawberries in my balcony Strawberries in my balcony

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Subhash Iyer

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