Margaret Minney has heard that Nova Scotians consume the highest per capita of strawberries in the country and she believes it.
Ripe, juicy and red, they are the first harbinger of summer for people in this region after a wearisome winter.
As it turns out, the longer and colder the winter, the better the berries may be.
While strawberry season is going to be a bit later than usual, the berries now forming are shaping up well and there could be a strong crop, said Minney, who has about seven acres of berries that she and her husband manage in River John.
“It looks like we’ve got a good crop,” she said.
Peter MacLean who operates MacLean’s U-Pick in Durham said they also are expecting a later but strong crop.
“The colder the better. The more snow the better,” he said. “It was a good winter for them that way.”
The way things look now he said the first berries will probably be ready the first week of July which is about 10 days later than last year. While he waits he’s been busy doing some weeding and taking care of the plants that will produce for next year.
He said about half their strawberries are sold through the U-Pick and the other half go to the store.
While U-Picks might not be as popular as they once were, he said it has come back a little in recent years.
“There’s people, that’s the only way they’ll take the berries,” he said.
Milne said they find the U-Pick an important part of their business as well. She said they get a lot of older people, but also families. Children may crush a berry or two, but she welcomes them at their patch.
“We’ve always figured they were our future customers,” she said.
Although the season may start later, Milne reminds people that means that it will most likely go longer too, so while farms in the valley may finish up their season early, Pictou County producers will still have plenty to pick.
Depending on how the weather is, the season can last anywhere from three to five weeks. She said a lot depends on the sun. A string of hot sunny days can cause the berries to ripen quickly and finish sooner, while cooler days like we’ve had can cause it to be prolonged.
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Did you know:
• The average berry has 200 seeds. Because its seeds are on the outside it’s technically not a fruit.
• First Nations people ate strawberries long before European settlers arrived and were known to bake them into cornbread.
• Strawberries contain high levels of nitrate. This has been shown to increase blood and oxygen flow to the muscles, which allows people to have greater endurance and burn more calories if they eat them before exercising.
• Eight strawberries have 140 per cent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C.