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Berry early

by jmaloni
Sat, Jun 12th 2010 07:00 am

by Emily Dulanski

Recent weather conditions may have blocked out the sunshine, but they brought out a favorite summer crop earlier than usual. Many farms with strawberry crops have already brought their fruit to market weeks ahead of time, in some cases.

"We just started picking (June 4)," said Sheri Senek of Senek Farms, located at 2087 Youngstown-Wilson Road in Ransomville. "They're early by about two weeks."

"We've already been picking for a week," said Diane Carr of Carr's Farm Market, located at 3755 Creek Road in Youngstown, earlier this week. "They seem sweeter this year."

"We started picking (on June 7). The rain kept us from getting to them over the weekend," said Dave Coulter of Coulter Farms, located at 3871 North Ridge Road in Lockport. "Too much rain and they will get soft and spoil, but they need a lot of water to grow. If we get the same rain next week as this week, they will spoil."

Although the weather caused the strawberries to ripen sooner, it did not make the flavor any more or less delicious.

"(The strawberries) are the same as every year," said Senek. "The taste is good, sweet and juicy. We have a new patch this year, and the first year patch is always best."

However, not all strawberries have the same flavor. Taste can be affected by variety and when the berry ripens.

"(The strawberries) always taste good," said Senek. "But the end of the season seems to have more sweet berries. We think it's because ... the strawberries are maturing during a warmer time of the year, but we don't know if that's proven."

"Later varieties tend to be sweeter," said Coulter. "But if you wait until the end of the season, they might be gone. (Visitors) should start now and pick a little bit at a time."

Unfortunately, although the strawberries have appeared early, the season will still be short-lived. Strawberry season will generally last 3-5 weeks, depending on the farm and the variety.

"The peak of the season is the week of the 21st, and we'll have four to five weeks of strawberries," said Senek. "We have no U-pick or stand, but we bring our berries to markets in North Tonawanda, Niagara Falls, Main Street in Williamsville and downtown Buffalo."

"(The season lasts) three weeks," said Coulter. "There is a variety called day-neutral berries that last all summer, but they are usually rare."

Coulter Farms has a stand and also invites visitors to pick their own berries. For more information, call 433-5700.

Carr's Farm Market also has a roadside stand that is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. that sells single quarts or flats of strawberries.

Although many individuals take advantage of locally grown berries, one event in particular that features this fruit is St. John's Episcopal Church's Strawberry Festival in Youngstown

"We're a high volume market," said Carr. "We provide the strawberries for the Strawberry Festival in Youngstown."

"We make a point of buying (our strawberries) local," said Karran Swayze, warden at St. John's Episcopal Church. "The strawberry shortcake is made with homemade biscuits and real homemade whipped cream."

The festival, however, is not just about the strawberries.

"We have a recognition of veterans on Saturday at 1 p.m. immediately followed by a performance by the Lockport Community Band," said Swayze. "On Sunday at 3 p.m. we will have a basket raffle ... with baskets (donated by) members and friends of the congregation as well as some local businesses. For the past 20 years, a portion of the proceeds (has gone) to local organizations ... this year they will go to the Junior ROTC at Lew-Port Senior High School."

This event will take place Saturday, June 19, and Sunday, June 20, from noon to 4 p.m. both days. It will be held at the church, located at 110 Chestnut St.

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