Following new developments in Kibbutz Merom Golan, agricultural experts have been able to extend the growing season of certain strains of strawberries into the summer months. Traditionally a winter fruit in Israel, strawberries are perhaps the most popular fruit in the country, and fresh ones are available for only half of the year.
The new crop is set to be planted on two dunams, approximately half an acre, in the farming kibbutz of Merom Golan. The test crop follows successful experimentation with the high-level strawberry strains that have been successfully grown in warm climates.
If all goes according to plan, in two years’ time, crops large enough to produce strawberries for public consumption will be planted all across the Golan Heights in the summer months. This will allow fresh strawberries to become a year-round crop in Israel, something which the public would literally eat up.
The initiative was started by the Research and Development Center for the North and the Agricultural Department at Kibbutz Merom Golan in the hopes of making the fruit available year-round. Additionally, the kibbutz hopes that the increase in supply will provide a step up for the kibbutz’s agricultural department and overall income by providing the market with a highly desirable commodity.
Elkana Ben Yashir, head of the Research and Development Center for Northern Israel, explained to Ynet, “The growing of strawberries requires two major criteria: few hours of daylight per day, and cold temperatures. That is why the fruit grows primarily in winter here. The Golan has a relatively cold climate, even in the summer, when compared to the rest of Israel. This allows us to grow certain fruits and vegetables even outside of their normal growing seasons in Israel.”
The two new strains of strawberry are specially designed to grow in spite of long hours of exposure to sunlight, something which has posed a problem for strawberry growth across the country in the summer months. According to the center, “both strains of strawberries have grown in the given circumstances in the Golan and have produced sweet and tasty varieties of strawberries, and of high quality.”
Gavi Kaniel, Director of the Agricultural Department for Kibbutz Merom Golan, said, “The special climate in the Golan allows for a creativity when it comes to agriculture, and for the growing of special produce that would be impossible to grow anywhere else in Israel. This allows farmers here a distinct advantage in the market when it comes to certain items, and helps us recruit young and innovative people who want to get a leg up in the field of agriculture. Those who are looking to advance and have forward thinking often come here.”
Growing strawberries in the summer time is just one issue that the center is looking to agriculturally improve in the Golan region.
“In addition to growing winter strawberries in the summer, we are also looking to grow other winter crops here, and we have seen successes in some of them, such as winter peas, Dutch lettuce, spinach, kale, Arabian lettuce, medicinal tobacco, and Brussels sprouts,” explained Kaniel. “The results have been very positive, and within two years we hope that the entire country will be able to benefit from quality winter produce, that is tasty and healthy, all year round.”