Can you believe Davao also grows strawberries, herbs ?

Big red strawberry fruits can be seen hanging from the bamboo poles laid side-by-side about one meter from the ground. Around 700 gms of strawberries per plant per year on the average, can be grown by Romana’s Garden farm. It’s probably the only hydro-phonics grown strawberry farm in Davao.

Newly harvested strawberries ready for pick up by the German visitors
Newly harvested strawberries ready for pick up by the German visitors

NEARLY 70 kilometers northwest of downtown Davao, you’ll find some of the best strawberries and exotic herbs grown in this country. Can you believe that? I’m probably a bit detached from what’s going on in this “fruit basket” of the Philippines, I don’t even know some people here can actually grow robust, sweeter strawberries than the ones grown in Baguio in northern Luzon.

   I accompanied three foreign restaurant owners— one from Germany and two from Netherlands— to a chilly, fog-covered mountain farm about 1,000 meters (3,600 feet) above sea level in Marahan, a mountain village in Marilog district here in Davao the other week. It’s a strawberry and herbs farm called “Romana’s  Garden” on a small forest clearing below the mountain top. This farm is easily accessible by the concrete  highway from Davao to Bukidnon — the same road that will take you there if you drive over there by yourself. If you’re familiar with this place, it’s just a short distance to “Buda”— the border between Bukidnon and Davao.

Cold fog started to drift into the mountains of Marilog when we arrived at the strawberry farm of Larry Suarez
Cold fog started to drift into the mountains of Marilog when we arrived at the strawberry farm of Larry Suarez

The guy who owns and runs this farm, Larry Suarez, 74, a lively and talkative former executive of a company, is so proud of his strawberries, he thinks they’re far sweeter and better than Baguio strawberries. “Baguio strawberries are tasteless and sour,” Larry told the foreign visitors. “Mine is sweeter. Go on, take some of our strawberries.”

The German owner of Precious Garden Restaurant and Resort in Samal island, Ulli Kronberg tasted one strawberry and agreed with Larry. “Yes, it’s sweeter, it’s better tasting,” he said. Kronberg immediately ordered some samples for his Samal restaurant where the island’s foreign residents usually meet for chess games and night entertainment.

Using some of the exotic herbs and strawberries from Larry's farm, German visitor Ulli Kronberg shakes up a new exotic dish.
Using some of the exotic herbs and strawberries from Larry’s farm, German visitor Ulli Kronberg shakes up a new exotic dish.

A short visit to his small strawberry farm shows Larry’s farming technique of using “hydrophonics” farming system of growing the exotic fruit. Long bamboo poles, are cut opened at one side and filled with rice stalks, sand and coir peat, where the strawberry plants are grown, all irrigated by drippings of a nutrient solution mixed and dissolved with some amounts of fertilizer. Big red strawberry fruits can be seen hanging from the bamboo poles laid side-by-side about one meter from the ground. Around 700 gms of strawberries per plant per year on the average, can be grown by Romana’s Garden farm. It’s probably the only hydro-phonics grown strawberry farm in Davao.

Guidebook publisher Mary Mina Remis gives one good look at the strawberry garden plots before harvesting the fruit
Guidebook publisher Mary Mina Remis gives one good look at the strawberry garden plots before harvesting the fruit

Larry is also so proud of his exotic herbs farm that he won’t hesitate singing the words, “Parsely, sage, rosemary and thyme !” at the top of his voice, from the song “Scarborough Fair” as he showed his foreign visitors his herbs farm beside the strawberry farm section. Those herbs had been there during the last ten years, attracting so many herb buyers from Davao— mostly chefs from big hotels and restaurants— to get some of the rarest herbs from Larry’s herb farm.

Food Guide Davao blog editor Aurelio "Boyet" Pena (left) and farm owner Larry Suarez closely inspect the robust strawberry plants grown on his "hydrophonics" farm plot in Maranahan, Marilog.
Food Guide Davao blog editor Aurelio “Boyet” Pena (left) and farm owner Larry Suarez closely inspect the robust strawberry plants grown on his “hydrophonics” farm plot in Maranahan, Marilog.

Some of these herbs include Basil, peppermint, applemint, chocolate mint, english mint, Vietnam mint, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, etc.  —  but Larry also grows mountain-fresh giant tomatoes, big green bell pepper, giant lettuce, Romanian lettuce, Lollorosa lettuce, which are all gobbled by the chef buyers from Marco Polo Hotel, Claude’s (French) restautant, Apo View Hotel, Habana foreign-run restaurants, Tiny Kitchen , etc

Chefs from all these prestigious hotels and restaurants are expected to visit Larry’s strawberry and herbs farm in Marahan sometime next month, Larry told us after setting up this special event with professional Davao guide Bong Suico who coordinated this special visit of the foreign restaurant owners to his mountain farm in Marilog..

(For inquiries, pls email us at >  anthonypenn@gmail.com or text us at mobile phone 09424052044 )

—  Posted September 28, 2015

 

 

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