Rain delay: Strawberries won't be ripe until end of May

News-DemocratMay 7, 2013 

This spring's excessive rainfall and cooler-than-usual weather is delaying the local strawberry harvest.

Usually, the strawberries at Eckert's Orchard in Belleville ripen by Mother's Day. This year, it could be Memorial Day before its strawberries make it to store shelves.

"The rain coupled with cool temperatures have really caused the berries to delay in their ripening," said Eckert's Orchards Marketing Manager Amanda Morgan.

The orchard has five acres devoted to strawberry production.

"Usually we have strawberries earlier, in the first or second week of May," Morgan said. "This year, we don't anticipate having any until May 18, and we don't anticipate opening our country store with strawberries until May 25."

Bob Ramsey said his Lebanon strawberry patch, Troy/O'Fallon Strawberries, is also producing fruit later than usual. He has been growing and selling strawberries from his one-acre patch for three years and expects them not to be ready until later this month.

"They are very late this year," Ramsey said. "They are just now blooming."

In Alhambra, Janice Reinhardt said all her family's berries are taking longer to ripen. Reinhardt's Berry Patch grows blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries. She said deer have eaten much of the strawberries that they grow and the rest of the berries are coming in, but later than usual.

"We just have to wait," Reinhardt said. "We need sunshine and warm weather. We appreciate the rain, but it could shut off for a while."

Last year, the unseasonably warm spring lead to an early strawberry crop. Despite this year's delay, Morgan said Eckert's strawberry crop will be bountiful.

"It's a week or week-and-a-half delay, but the crop looks larger," she said. "I think right now the crop looks great."

The crop's delay forced Eckert's Orchards to reschedule the start of its Strawberry Festival from this weekend to next weekend, May 18 and 19.

The festival has been extended from two weekends to three weekends this year. The festivities are May 25, 26 and 27 as well as June 1 and 2.

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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