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The classic strawberry shortcake, as served at the Guilford Community Church’s annual Strawberry Supper, held this year on June 20.

Food and Drink

It was nice while it lasted

Heavy rain brings strawberry season to an abrupt end

BRATTLEBORO—Like some of the little towns where the fruit is grown, strawberry season could best be described as “blink, and you’ll miss it."

With June behind us, so are most locally-grown strawberries.

Many of the berries grown in this region are June-bearing. As Read Miller of Dummerston’s Dwight Miller Orchards explains, traditional June-bearing strawberries are sensitive to that month’s daylight conditions, producing fruit from roughly June 1 to early July.

“They aren’t very productive,” Miller said of the June-bearing plants. In addition to a lower yield than ever-bearing plants, June-bearing strawberries are also small.

So, why does Miller grow those?

“They are extremely flavorful,” he said, adding he chooses quality over quantity. “We like good fruit. We like to grow varieties we like to eat,” he said, explaining why “we don’t grow the most productive” types of berries.

Miller said he does not grow that many ever-bearers.

Part of the reason is, as soon as June turns to July, Miller and his staff must shift their attention to the orchard’s next big project: apples.

For some farms, though, the pressure is on to grow ever-bearing strawberries to satisfy the public’s desire for good, locally-grown fruit.

Walker Farm generally has strawberries all summer at its Dummerston stand, but this year, yield is down because of heavy rains in the last few weeks.

A sign at the farm stand pleads with customers to be patient, as the farmers are doing the best they can to supply demand for the sweet little fruits. The staff suggests showing up early in the morning to score a quart.

Dan Harlow, who runs his family’s farm stand in Westminster, said their strawberry season is finished for the year.

They did not plan it that way. Harlow’s usually has early-, mid-, and late-bearing berries.

But, any late-June-bearing berries still on the plants were destroyed by the heavy rains, he said. Harlow said strawberries, being so delicate and without a thick skin, absorb too much water.

Then, they get moldy, right in the fields.

Plus, any later-bearing plants in the flower stage were ruined during the rains, too, Harlow said, explaining their blossoms were drowned in the downpour.

The good news, though, is that June was kind to our local berry farmers.

This year’s harvest was “very good,” said Miller. “We had enough heat, and heat makes sweet berries,” he said, adding strawberries “like to be kissed by the sun."

Harlow said that the dry and sunny start to the season made it “good” for strawberries, and noted this year was “better than a lot of years."

For his family’s farm, strawberry season is over, Harlow said, with noticeable sadness.

Harlow said some of his favorite ways to enjoy strawberries are “right off the plant,” in strawberry-rhubarb pie, and in strawberry shortcake. Of the latter, Harlow said, “that’s the best!"

On a recent Saturday evening, strawberry shortcake explained the long line of people wrapped around the Guilford Community Church.

During the first of the two seatings of the evening’s annual Strawberry Shortcake Supper on June 20, groups of friends and family awaited their turn to sit down and dig in to the traditional fare of baked ham, baked beans, deviled eggs, cole slaw, and homemade rolls.

Although diners commented on the deliciousness of the food, the star of the evening arrived once the dinner plates were cleared: a generous serving of fresh, local strawberries sandwiched between a fluffy, buttery homemade biscuit and a big blob of real whipped cream.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #313 (Wednesday, July 8, 2015). This story appeared on page C4.

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