State’s Pampered Strawberries Ready to Leave the Patch

Sunday, May 07, 2006 | 7:00pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn.
Cold nights through early spring and recent storms bringing damaging winds, hail or worse have left Tennessee’s strawberry growers tired but ultimately happy about this year’s crop.

 

 

Always highly anticipated across the state, Tennessee’s famous strawberry crop is pampered through frosty nights and other inclement conditions by producers who anxiously watch forecasts and temperature gauges. When the mercury drops too low or storms grow too fierce, farmers can spend hours covering each row of plants—sometimes acres and acres—with plastic, or, in some instances, coating plants with ice, which actually serves to protect plants from the worse effects of cold, blowing wind.

The good news is that all that effort seems to be paying off for growers, who report that yields look good and that berries are actually ripening sooner than expected in some spots, while others are little later. The overall effect for Tennesseans will be a long, sweet strawberry season.

“We’ve sat up with the plants many nights this year to protect them from harm,” says Shirley Carmack of Reg Carmack Farm near Ripley. “Despite the late frost and cold weather, the berries are real, real pretty.” Contact the Carmacks about berry picking at (731) 635-2088.

Dennis Fox of the Fruit and Berry Patch near Knoxville says, “Our berries are coming in a little late this year due to the cold weather. We still use the Earlyglo matted row variety. You can’t get a sweeter berry.” Contact Fox at (865) 922-3779 (865-92-B-E-R-R-Y).

Strawberries have a short life once they’ve been picked, holding up well up to four days after picking. When possible, store the delicate berries unwashed in a single layer on a baking sheet and refrigerate. Just before using, rinse the berries under a gentle spray of cool water. Do not cap strawberries until after washing.

Visit www.picktnproducts.org and click on the “Tennessee Strawberries,” banner for a listing of the state’s strawberry growers. The list includes the location and contact number for each grower, so visitors can call ahead to get days and hours of operation, find out whether to bring containers from home and learn about the varieties of berries grown at a given farm. When calling the grower, get price information for strawberries that are self-picked as opposed to pre-picked by the grower and prices for various size containers.

Pickers can be disappointed with the flavor of their strawberries if they don’t choose only the berries that are completely bright or dark red. Strawberries do not continue to ripen after picking, so if berries aren’t completely red at picking, they won’t turn red later or have that expected sweetness.

Livingston’s Sandy Johnson, owner of the Berry Patch, reminds pickers that “You’ll find the nicest berries under the leaves. Looks like a good year for sweetness and easy picking.” Call Johnson about days and hours of operation at (931) 823-5308.

For more information about strawberries, for strawberry recipes, for information about farmers markets or for more information about other Tennessee farm products, go to www.picktnproducts.org.

Agriculture