In this post I’ll clarify the current situation with our Pick Your Own fruit and veg, explain why it’s behaving so bizarrely, look at what to expect in the coming weeks and help you work out how to still enjoy a visit to the farm this summer.
Despite forecasting that the Pick Your Own season would be later than usual, we opened our fields on Thursday 14th June. I can only apologise for my misguided prediction - the weather has played absolute havoc with our crops! I'm not going to look too far ahead in this post but what I can start with is an accurate picture of how the fruit is doing right this minute...
- There are strawberries available to pick today. My thoughts on what to expect beyond this are outlined later.
- The problem is really with the quality of the crop – the strawberries are mostly small and take some effort to find.
- The good news is the smaller berries pack all their flavour into one intense hit. The taste is unrecognisable from the watery imitations you’ll find in supermarkets.
- The bad news is you’ll struggle to pick lots of fruit without looking hard and the contents of your basket won’t look that impressive.
- You can always top-up your own harvest with some of the delicious British strawberries available in the farm shop, so you won't leave empty handed!
- They’re ready for picking now and will last another couple of weeks.
- Packed with Vitamin C, they make fantastic jelly to accompany a Sunday roast.
- It’s been a while since we’ve had a good crop of Sugar Snap Peas. And as if to make up for lost time this year’s crop has come through brilliantly!
- There’s a bumper crop on the early bushes now, which should last a couple of weeks. If the later crops do just as well then we’ll have them available to pick right through to August.
- Amazingly, several weeks ahead of schedule, we have the first sprinkling of raspberries available to pick.
- The fruit is a little on the small side, but tastes good.
- The raspberries tend to be intermittent in their availability – they will be available to pick for a couple of days and then need a couple of days rest until more ripen. This will be the pattern for several weeks now.
So what exactly is going on with the strawberries?
I previously explained that here in the northwest we suffered from a terrible, wet six months of constant rain over winter. This severely damaged the roots of many strawberry plants leaving them with just small shallow roots to suck up from the soil the water they need to grow lovely plump fruit. During the critical growing period in May and early June when a strawberry plant produces a green berry, they rely on a mixture of sunshine and water to slowly grow the size of the fruit as it gently turns pink then red. In 2018, during this crucial phase, our strawberries were subjected to 8 weeks of intense sunshine and almost no rain. Great for a sun tan, devastating to a strawberry plant with no roots.
Is that it for strawberries this year then?
Hopefully not. I’m not about to make any promises, but we’ve spotted some signs of life – green strawberries that are yet to ripen red. If these strawberries are given a bit of time and more importantly the odd shower of rain, we could see good-looking strawberries continuing to ripen over the next 2-3 weeks. It’s not going to be a vintage year, but given the unpredictability of the season so far, I wouldn’t write it off yet.
With some of our fruits misbehaving and some playing nice, there’s still opportunity to enjoy a trip to the farm this summer. Here’s my advice on how to plan for a successful visit:
- Check our website for daily availability news. The blog post you're reading only provides the current snap-shot. We update our availability page every day to give the most accurate information we can. Don't set off without checking the website first!
- Take the opportunity this year to pick a range of produce you may not have tried before. There’s more to summer than strawberries!
- Top-up your own harvest with the fresh fruit and veg we have ready-picked in the farm shop. As well as our own produce, we’ve found a good supplier of delicious, good-looking British strawberries to compliment what you find in the fields.
- Make the most of the other offerings on the farm this summer – enjoy a real dairy ice cream or smoothie from the café, play on our zip wire or pedal tractors, or get yourself an outdoor-reared hog roast in our picnic area at weekends.
- Come to the farm with a smile on your face and a spring in your step. We’re fortunate to be out in the countryside on an English summer’s day. Make the most of it what there is to pick and worry less about what there isn't!
James Bulmer, 19th June 2018.