There are a few staples of summer, and one of them is a sweet little treat people can oftentimes pick themselves.
Strawberry season is here again, and the Eau Claire downtown farmers market saw the first glimpses Saturday of the tasty fruit on a few vendor tables.
Deidra Barrickman, the market manager, said about one-third of vendors at the market sell strawberries throughout the summer, but many of them are not quite ready. Because strawberries have early-, mid- and late-season varieties, Barrickman said, that could play a role in the lack of berries available right now.
However, she said this is a pretty typical time to first see strawberries. Right around the second or third week of June is when she usually anticipates their arrival, but the window changes every year. There weren’t many berries out this past weekend, she said, because the season is in its early stages; when the strawberries are available, they’re usually in high demand.
“It’s one of those wonderful things that people really like, and it means something,” Barrickman said. “It means summer’s here.”
Gaye Brunkow, owner of Little Berry Farm four miles south of Eau Claire, opened Monday for the season. She said she was surprised the berries were ready now but attributed it to the warm weather in May.
“Before the flowers started forming, it was questionable when they’d be ready,” Brunkow said.
In the end, opening day came around the same time as it did last year. The berries are ready to pick now, regardless of the area’s late winter, which knocked out some of Brunkow’s plants, especially in one field.
Her single acre of strawberries saw the “perfect” opening day, as it was warm and busy. Later in the summer, Brunkow will also have blueberries and raspberries.
She said she expects the picking season will last between two and three weeks, as it has since she opened in 2013.
Dan Sam, owner of Sam’s Produce in Arkansaw, farms with his wife, Tammy. The two participate in the Eau Claire farmers market but don’t sell their strawberries there. Sam said they have been growing strawberries for about 25 years and every year is different.
“This year was the latest we ever uncovered, but it’s not the latest season by far,” Sam said.
Sam’s Produce grows seven to eight varieties of strawberries, all of which Sam said have varying textures and flavors. He said they purposely plant varieties that bloom at different times in an attempt to extend the brief season a little bit.
Strawberries require work year-round, but the season “comes in fast, you work it hard, then it’s done,” Sam said. For that reason, he said it’s important people know when the season starts so they don’t miss it.
Sam said he expects they will start their picking season by Friday. The strawberries will be available for sale at Sam’s Produce in Arkansaw.
Govin’s Farm in Menomonie is expected to open around June 20; Mac’s Berry Farm in Bloomer is expected to open this weekend; Horst Berry Patch in Stanley is expected to open sometime next week.
For more information on area strawberry patches, visit the Wisconsin Berry Growers Association at wiberries.org.