It has been about a month since most areas of North Carolina saw their last freeze, and for local strawberry growers and eaters that means the second wave of strawberries is almost here.
“This has been an unusual strawberry season in North Carolina,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Thanks to a warm February, many growers were picking at least two weeks ahead of schedule. Then the state had freezing temperatures in March, which put production on hold. It takes 30 days or more for a blossom to turn into a berry. Now that we are past the last freeze, more strawberries are about ready for picking, and consumers should expect a strong crop through the end of May.”
Picking will begin in Eastern North Carolina and the Piedmont over the next two weeks. Western North Carolina growers should be ready for picking May 1. The peak of the N.C. strawberry season is traditionally Mother’s Day weekend, but locally grown berries should still be available into Memorial Day, said Dexter Hill, marketing specialist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
To celebrate the season, the department and N.C. Strawberry Association will hold three Strawberry Day events at the state-operated farmers markets in Colfax, Charlotte and Raleigh in May. The first event is at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh on May 4. The celebration includes a strawberry recipe contest, ice cream samples and a visit by Suzy Strawberry. On May 5, the Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market in Colfax will host its Strawberry Day, which also includes a recipe contest, ice cream samples and visit by Suzy Strawberry. On May 12, visitors to the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market can enjoy free strawberry ice cream samples. All three events will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
North Carolina is the fourth-largest producer of strawberries in the nation, and the crop generated more than $23 million in farm income in 2015. More information about the strawberry industry is available at www.ncstrawberry.com. Consumers interested in finding a you-pick strawberry farm near them can go to www.ncfarmfresh.com.