Strawberries ready a bit early this year

Brad Hicks • Apr 26, 2012 at 9:58 PM

UNICOI — Although milder-than-normal temperatures in the winter and early spring have caused the strawberry crop to come in earlier than usual, Steve Scott, owner of Scott’s Strawberry and Tomato Farms, said all indications currently point to a longer season to pick some good-looking strawberries.

While crews were not out Thursday, Scott said plenty of picking has taken place recently in the strawberry fields. Scott said he’s very pleased by what he has seen there.

“The crop is looking good, knock on wood,” Scott said. “It’s one of the prettier crops we’ve had in a couple of years. I don’t know if it has anything to do with the weather.”

Scott said strawberries of various sizes are spread across the fields. These include red strawberries that are now ripe for the picking, larger green berries that will soon ripen and will likely be picked next week, small green berries that should be ready in the next couple of weeks, and “popcorn” berries in which the fruit is taking shape and will be ready for picking in the future.

Scott said the fruit is not ripening too fast and is ripening at different times, which is a sweet thing for strawberry lovers as it will lead to a longer picking season. This, of course, is barring future overnight freezes, storms, and temperatures quickly turning hot. Heat causes strawberry plants to produce vegetative growths known as “runners” rather than fruit, Scott said.

Strawberries from Scott Farms have already been delivered to a number of area Food City locations and are being sold at the Scott Farms strawberry stands set up throughout the Tri-Cities area and as far away as Knoxville.

Scott said the farm’s overhead irrigation system has only had to be used around five times this year. Assuming the climate stays as is, Scott said crews will likely be picking strawberries longer than in recent years. While he said he doesn’t expect crews to be out picking through the first week of July, Scott said if crews are able to pick for 45 days that he’d be “tickled to death.”

“To put it simply, we’ll be picking into June,” he said. “The way it’s looking, we could have a pretty long year. Well, longer than the last couple, let me put it that way.”

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