BUCKSPORT — This year’s strawberry crop looks sweet and plentiful, which is good news for approaching Fourth of July barbecues and picnics.
“This is pretty much what I would call a normal year,” said David Handley, vegetable and small fruit specialist for the University of Maine.
Although this spring has been wet and fungal diseases attack fruit in wet weather, the strawberries are looking good, Handley said. “Some growers have had to apply fungicide. Fungal diseases really attack the fruit in wet weather.”
Predominantly cool temperatures have made for a slow start to the season.
Handley said he expects pick-your-own stands to be open in Hancock County by next weekend (June 29).
“We’ve been early the past few years because we’ve had really warm spring,” Handley said. “When we get the berries too early, the kids aren’t out of school yet to pick.”
Silver Ridge Farm in Bucksport this week had fields of strawberry plants boasting clusters of berries.
Most of the berries are still white but there were dots of ripe, red berries.
Owners Bob and Earlene Chasse are cautiously optimistic.
“We think it’s going to be a good season, but until it’s over, you don’t know,” Earlene said. “We know a lot of things could go wrong between now and harvest season.”
“You don’t make the same mistake twice, usually it’s something new you hadn’t thought of,” Bob said. “I think this is going to be a fairly normal season. There are no perfect seasons.”
The Chasses aren’t sure when opening day will be for picking. Customers can call 469-2405 to hear a message about picking schedules.
Heat makes berries ripen faster, Earlene said. “But then if it’s cool with nights in the 40s, it takes longer.”
The Chasses have 10 fields that have a view of Silver Lake and Great Pond Mountain. Seven fields are producing berries this year. The other fields have been planted anew for next summer’s crop.
The couple pull weeds and look over the fruit. Soon, they will walk along the newly planted fields using scissors to remove flowers from each plant.
Earlene explains that this first year, they want the plants to put their energy into setting runners, not fruit.
“We want that thick, matted row,” of plants, Earlene said. “They’re very labor-intensive, which is why they’re so expensive to grow.”
Silver Ridge grows a handful of varieties, including Cavendish, Annapolis, Jewel, Brunswick and Mesabi.
Certain strawberry varieties are better for freezing while others are better for jam, Earlene said. The couple eat strawberries daily during the season, which can be as short as 10 days or as long as 28, depending on temperature.
Earlene will put strawberries away in the freezer for the winter holidays when she’ll make strawberry pie and strawberry rhubarb pie.