NORTH BAY — It is strawberry season, and people can’t seem to get enough of the sweet red fruit.
Mitch Deschatelets, president of the North Bay Farmers’ Market and manager of Leisure Farms in Sturgeon Falls — a popular destination for Sudburians in between Sudbury and North Bay — says despite all the rain that fell this spring and now the hot dry conditions, the strawberry season is off to a good start.
(In case you were wondering, Greater Sudbury strawberry farms such as Chelmsford's Ruby Berry Farms are also open for the season. Phone the berry hotline at 705-855-9901 before heading out, as ripening days are still needed).
“It is actually much better this year because we didn’t get any winter injury. We had a good snow cover all winter and it kept the roots from freezing because of all the insulation from the snow,” explained Deschatelets.
“We’re a week later but the volume is much better than last year. They’re a good size so it has actually been a very good start to the season.”
Ideally growers would like a few days of cool overcast conditions.
“That really slows them down. The hot weather makes a lot ripen at the same time, so we have lots of fruit to pick. So hopefully in the next four or five days we get enough people to pick them. The pick your own is going really well.”
The local farmer expects the season will last another few weeks.
“It depends on how long the heat wave lasts. If it cools off, we could have as much as another four weeks. And raspberries look like they will start around July 20th, so there will be a big overlap between the strawberries and raspberries this year. So, people could pick both on the same day.”
Strawberries are plentiful at the North Bay Farmers’ Market.
Just last Saturday people attended the market specifically for its Strawberry Festival.
Casandra Hajek could be seen carefully manoeuvring her way through the crowd with her flat of fresh locally grown strawberries, careful not to drop any.
“They look wonderful, bright red, and juicy. Nice and fresh to bake with,” she grinned.
Son Alec Paquin already had a list of ways he planned to enjoy the sweet summer fruit.
“I’m going to eat them fresh just as they are, in smoothies, on my cereal, on pancakes, whatever I can.”
At that rate Hajek doubts any of the berries she just purchased will make it to the freezer.
“Maybe the second batch we buy,” she laughed.
Being able to purchase the fruit locally without it being transported great distances is important to this mom.
“You get much better flavour compared to what you buy in the store. It is brought freshly picked right from local farms, so you get the full flavour.”
Jana Cappadocia also attended the market specifically to buy some fresh strawberries.
“My mom bought some strawberries a few days ago and they were delicious, absolutely delicious. So, we thought we’d better come and get some more,” said Cappadocia.
“And the fact they’re grown locally is becoming more and more important to me actually. I’ve been thinking about that a lot more and trying to shop a little more locally.”
Gary Wood of Heather’s Fudge has found another use for strawberries.
The business started making strawberry flavoured fudge last year and due to popular demand, brought it back again this season.
“It is sweet, smooth, delicious, just good stuff. We have natural strawberries in it and some flavouring as well. You won’t believe the taste.”
All around the market people could be seen enjoying the festival’s strawberry shortcake.
Gabriella Peterson enjoyed every bite of the mouth-watering dessert.
“Delicious. They’re absolutely amazing as they are every year. They’re juicy, they’re definitely sweet but some of them are a bit sour too. I like that, I like have the mix of both in there.”
If you one more reason to eat strawberries, they’re packed with vitamin C and fibre.