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June 23. 2013 6:57PM

Berry pickin'

New Hampshire strawberry fields are in full bloom


Bryson Eddy of Gilford and Gosia Bakowska of Poland, both employees of Beans and Greens in Gilford, show off some fresh-picked strawberries from the store's strawberry fields Wednesday morning. (DAN SEUFERT PHOTO)

GILFORD — The plants in Beans and Greens strawberry fields are dangling a mix of small green berries, larger berries with some redness, and big, luscious bright red berries that have just ripened in the past several days.

It's about a week late, but it is strawberry season in most of New Hampshire. Growers say the berries were delayed by the cool, rainy weather in the past two weeks.

But the recent sunny skies helped the crops recover, and it looks like a good strawberry season is upon us, farmers said. Most farms said they just started selling strawberries last week.

"The berries have been ripening more slowly than normal because of the consistent cool, rainy weather we've had," said Andy Howe, co-owner of Beans and Greens.

"But the berries are getting big with the sun, and it looks like we'll have a good crop. Not a great crop, but a good crop."

"There are lots of berries, they just need some sun," said Carlyn Reep of Apple Hill Farm in Concord, which just started selling strawberries this week.

Farms across the state report a slow start to the season. Brookdale Farm in Hollis, among the southernmost strawberry farms in the state, has been selling strawberries since June 6, but just started its pick-your-own season last weekend because the plants have not been as strong as usual, according to Brookdale's Tyler Hardy.

As it is farther south, Brookdale would be expected to have a slightly earlier season than other farms, but Hardy said his farm has also had a delayed strawberry crop.

"The fields don't look as healthy as they should, we don't have that much volume," Hardy said.

Like the other farms, Brookdale has many other fruit and vegetable crops that are doing better than their strawberries.

"Strawberries are a very delicate crop," he said. "It's hard to control compared to other crops. Strawberry plants are fragile, it's a challenge to grow them."

Now, though, the news for strawberry growers and consumers is all good. The sunny days that followed the rain helped turn many smaller green berries into big red strawberries, ready for eating.

Farmers said the strawberries are now as large and flavorful as ever. And all said the berries are selling very quickly.

"For some reason, demand this year seems to be really strong, they are selling very fast," Howe said.

Strawberry farmers warned, though, of common misconceptions about strawberry season. People ask for strawberries at farms all summer long, and many farms sell strawberries before and after their own seasons that come from other places, and are not strictly "fresh."

Strawberry season is fleeting. Locally grown, fresh strawberries are only available in June, sometimes into early July. The season only lasts for two to three weeks.

"I can't tell you how many people come to the store in July and August asking for fresh strawberries, people don't understand that the season is brief, and they're upset when they realize they've missed it," Howe said.

Prime time for strawberries has just begun, and growers are urging strawberry lovers not to wait.

"It might only last two weeks, some years that's all we get,"

Howe said. "If you like strawberries, now is the time to be Johnny-on-the-spot."

dseufert@newstote.com


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