The warm winter and mild spring is pushing strawberries into markets and on to kitchen tables early this year. Just how early? Debby Wechsler, Executive Secretary of the NC Strawberry Association:
“They should be in sooner, about ten days to two weeks earlier than usual. It depends which part of the state you are in and how the farmers in that area have taken care of their crop over the winter and what varieties they have planted.”
In fact, it may be that strawberries will be available as early as Easter weekend:
“I’ve talked to farmers who expect to open by April 8th, or possibly earlier.”
As far as how long the season is going to last, especially with this week’s moderating temperatures, Wechsler says it’s hard to say at this point:
“The question is going to be how long is the season going to last. Will this be a short concentrated season that starts early, comes on gangbusters, then wraps up early; or will it start early and stretch out through later in the year. We just don’t know. People are looking at the plants, counting flowers, trying to guess how many buds they are not seeing. There are still a lot of unknowns. In terms of problems, like bugs or diseases, I haven’t heard about anything.”
Speaking of moderating temperatures, some regions of the state had frost warnings for this morning, and again in the morning, but Wechsler says growers are prepared:
“It may slow growth down a little bit, but strawberries actually like cool weather, so a light or even a pretty substantial frost is not a problem for strawberry growers, they are used to it and know how to cover their plants and frost protect with irrigation. What would be really scary is if the temperature dropped down to about fifteen degrees with strong winds, but those conditions are not likely. “
Wechsler had this caveat for this year’s strawberry season:
“Tell people to check with their farm or find a farm nearby to get a sense when that farm will open. Just remember that it may be as short season so buy early and don’t wait until May to get your strawberries.”
Debby Wechsler, Executive Secretary for the North Carolina Strawberry Association.
NC is the third largest producer of strawberries in the US.