Local strawberries – picked fresh and delivered daily from Hayton Farms in Mount Vernon – are here!
Locally grown strawberries are as sweet as candy, but highly perishable. In an effort to keep them as fresh as possible, our berries are picked fresh each morning and delivered directly to the markets seven days a week. The deliveries arrive each morning between 9 and 11 am – give or take an hour or so (especially on the Kitsap side where a ferry boat ride is involved).
Our intent is to order just enough each day to get through the evening and yet not carry fruit over into the next business day. It’s an inexact science for sure, so it’s possible we may run out if sales that particular day exceed our expectations. If it rains in the strawberry fields, they may not even pick fruit – and that means we’d be out for the entire day.
The Washington strawberry season is very sweet – and very short. We started May 23 this year, and it would be considered a long season if fruit was still being harvested by June 10. The peak of this season will the week of June 1. Please don’t wait and miss out.
I also took a look at the farm’s organic raspberries while visiting with Robert Hayton Sr. and his daughter Angelica in Mount Vernon last Thursday. Robert and Angelica said they think that berry also will be off to an early start in June. The local raspberry season is a little longer than the strawberry season – about 25-30 days for summer varieties and a possible short season for a select fall variety in late August if the weather cooperates through late summer.
We visited Sterino Farms in Puyallup on Friday to check on his red raspberries and blackberries. I have to say it looks like they will have an excellent crop this year, possibly the best in several years. Hopefully, our weather will continue to be friendly to the berries. Jake Sterino said obsidian blackberries will start about June 10, with the best supply expected around June 15. The obsidian is a big, sweet berry with very small seeds, if any at all. This variety is becoming so popular that it’s now interchangeable with the marionberry and, in many cases, is replacing it all together.
Jake grows both gold and red raspberries. The early gold is the most flavorful of the yellow varieties and his Tulameen variety red raspberry is the best of the reds. This berry is known for its size, glossy red color and sweet flavor. It also happens to be one of the more difficult varieties to grow. Hence we had no season last year due to extremely dry weather. But this year looks to be a different story. The plants look as healthy as I have ever seen and the blossoms are plentiful and staging up berries just perfectly. Jake thinks these also will be early, weather permitting, possibly starting around June 20.
Remember an early start means an early end. If this start date holds true, expect peak volumes during the first week in July and a possible end to local raspberries as early as the July 15. Jake also showed us several other specialty variety berries that also are looking great – red, white and black currants, red gooseberries and tayberries. In particular, the red and black currants continue to grow in popularity with culinary applications in juices, jellies and purées.
Sterino Farms is also just about ready to start harvesting its lettuce. Jake said the planting season has been perfect this year, and he’s managed to plant lettuce every Tuesday for the past several weeks. That means a nice, steady supply through the summer season. That will be nice since last year, we had to work through several gaps in supply caused by interruptions in the planting cycle, caused by weather. The best estimate for the arrival of local lettuce is the weekend of June 4-5.
Last but not least, cherries! We are just about done with California fruit and it looks like we will get our first Northwest red cherries on Sunday or Monday of this week. Some growers in select areas did get hit with rain last weekend, which caused some damage in isolated areas. But I checked in with our growers, and it looks like they escaped without damage, so it’s all looking good at this point. I am hopeful for a good Northwest cherry season overall this year. The fruit is out there – now it’s all up to Mother Nature!
That’s it for now, more to come soon. – Joe