June 06, 2017

Berries Slow to Start
But Worth the Wait

While summer is slow in arriving, I did love that warm Memorial Day weekend. Warm, sunny and dry was long overdue this year. Speaking of warm and sunny, what about local berries?

I visited berry-growers in Skagit Valley about a week ago – Hayton Farms near Mount Vernon and Skagit Sun Farms near LaConner. I found we still had a ways to go. The blueberries look great as far as blossoms are concerned, but there were no actual berries when I was there. Our best guess for Western Washington blueberries at this point is mid-July. We expect Eastern Washington and Oregon to start around June 20. Look for Northwest blueberries to peak during July.

As far as local strawberries are concerned, they also are slow to arrive. Right now, it looks like the start date might be around June 15, give or take a few days. Keep in mind, the local strawberry season is short and sweet – it comes and goes within a few short, but sweet, weeks.

I also visited Jake Sterino of Sterino Farms in Puyallup and got a good look at his Obsidian blackberries, his red and golden raspberries and his varieties of gooseberries and currants. The red raspberries were just beginning to bloom and the blackberries were well under way with their flowering. Jake’s projection is that harvest will start about 45 day after blooming. That puts the Obsidian blackberries and tayberries on track for a very late June start.

Speaking of the Obsidian blackberry, I consider one of the best of the entire year. They’re sweet with very small seeds and every bit as good – if not better – than the traditional “Marion blackberry,” which is marketed as simply marionberry. Marionberries were developed by the US Department of Agriculture in cooperation with Oregon State University as a cross between the “chehalen’ and “olallie’ berry varies in the 1950s. The Obsidian is another hybrid developed in the late 1990s, again by the USDA and OSU.


Tayberries – a cross between raspberries and blackberries

The tayberry, a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry, is an early variety berry and should start around the same time as the Obsidian blackberry. If you like tayberries, don’t wait. Once you see them, they’ll be all but done within a week to 10 days. Jake doesn’t think we’ll see raspberries before July 4 this year. But the good news is the canes look great, so we should have a great season once they do start. July will be the month for red raspberries along with currants and gooseberries.

California cherries have been outstanding so far, but sadly I expect the California season to be all but done by the end of this week or early next week. As for Washington cherries, nothing yet! I will be heading to Mattawa – south of Vantage on the Columbia River – on June 8 to see how Bigfork Orchards is coming along.

From there I will head up to Brewster – northeast of Chelan – to check in with Chelan Fresh on the upcoming cherry season. Right now the forecast is calling for rain. This is not a good thing. If we get much of it now, the cherries will split and not be available for fresh market. The good news is that the rain that does fall is not expected to be widespread.  So cross your fingers afor dry warm weather on the eastern side for the next several weeks. Currently most growers are forecasting the peak of cherry season to fall during the three weeks after the 4th of July holiday.

We saw a small gap in sweet corn this  year from G&S Farms in Brentwood, Calif. Glen (the G in G&S) lost some leased land but last week, the farm started delivering white corn from the Huron area southwest of Fresno, Calif. As we move through this week we should see yellow and bi-color varieties from G&S Farms, grown in Huron. Every bit as good as we would expect it to be. We don’t expect the G&S Farms Brentwood corn to start until the week of June 15, so timing should be excellent to have the sweetest corn on earth for the July 4 holiday!

Lastly, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that Washington asparagus is now coming into its final week and I expect is to be done by the end of next week. The good news is that Walla Walla sweet onions should arrive in the markets during the last week in June in time for the holiday.

Have a great day! — Joe

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