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Berries ripe for the picking

Brandon Logan Central Plains Herald-Leader

Portage la Prairie and the Central Plains is one of the premiere Manitoban destinations to get fresh strawberries.

With strawberry season kicking off last week, many Portagers have been seen flocking to strawberry suppliers to get their fix.

Melanie Giffin, manager at Mayfair Farms, said this year's weather has been good for the strawberries.

"Usually the strawberries are ready around July 1," she said. "This year, however, the warm weather has helped the berries ripen much quicker, so they were ready a few weeks quicker than most growing seasons."

Ivan Hofer, co-owner of Pattern Acres, said this early summer weather has been good to the strawberries.

"The start of the season looks very promising," he said. "While we're only two days in, you can't get too optimistic because the weather could change at any moment."

When growing strawberries, size does matter. A good ripe strawberry shouldn't be too large or too small. The temperature outside will effectively decides the size of the berry.

"The perfect condition can't be too hot or cold," said Hofer. "If the temperature is in the high 20's or low 30's, the strawberries will ripen too quickly, and will be too small. If it's too cool outside, the strawberries will ripen slowly and may get too big when ready. A good growing temperature in somewhere in the mid-20's."

The typical growing season for a strawberry at Mayfair Farms is around two to three weeks, said Giffin. Giffin also mentioned that they have planted their strawberry crop for next year.

"In the first summer, we plant the seeds and it grows into a small plant with fuller leaves," she said. "The following spring is when the plant begins to produce the actual strawberries."

One of the great features that Mayfair Farms offers is the ability to pick your own strawberries.

It is a great activity for families who want to spend time outdoors.

"It's a fun experience to come out to the farm and harvest your own food," said Giffin. "It's not everyday that you can go and get your food that way.

Agnes and Fabian Mousseau spent their Friday afternoon at Mayfair Farms on Island Park.

Agnes said she enjoys the experience of picking her berries.

"It's fun to pick them and they are fresher," she said. "Plus it gives you the opportunity to soak up the nice warm weather."

With picking season just getting underway, this is the time for all strawberry enthusiasts to get out and pick away.

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