Get your shortcake ready. Virginia strawberry growers anticipate a strong season for fresh, Virginia-grown strawberries. At many farms, cool temperatures in late April delayed this year’s strawberry crop by a couple weeks. But these strawberries will be worth the wait, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). Cooler conditions can help make the strawberries extra delicious. Many farms are expecting a bumper crop of berries this season.
VDACS anticipates the peak of this year’s Virginia strawberry season to arrive early- to mid-May for southeastern Virginia, where temperatures are milder; and mid- to late-May in other parts of the Commonwealth, where the weather is cooler. The majority of the state’s approximately 80 larger-scale strawberry growers are located in the Tidewater region, according to Robert Vaughn, president of the newly formed Virginia Strawberry Association. Virginia has a total of 263 strawberry growers with 252 harvested acres, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.
For many Virginians, picking strawberries at a local farm is an annual spring tradition. Others can’t resist the sweet Virginia strawberries available at farmers’ markets and grocery stores each spring. VDACS maintains a database of Virginia pick-your-own strawberry fields and farmers’ markets on VirginiaGrown.com.
Since strawberry season is relatively brief and the peak can vary region-to-region, strawberry lovers should contact local growers to find out when their strawberries will be ripe, their hours of operation and how the farm’s berries are sold. Some have pick-your-own fields, some sell pre-picked strawberries and other growers sell their berries at local markets. Many Virginia farms post regular updates to their website, blog and social media feeds.
Virginians can celebrate the strawberry at upcoming festivals across the state. The Gretna Strawberry and Wine Festival in Southern Virginia is May 16. The Delaplane Strawberry Festival at Sky Meadows State Park and the 31st annual Pungo Strawberry Festival in Virginia Beach are both May 23-24. This year’s Strawberry Jubilee at Great Country Farms in Northern Virginia takes place May 23, 24, 30 and 31. Oatlands Strawberry Festival is scheduled May 30 at Oatlands Historic House and Gardens in Leesburg. And the 33rd annualAshland Strawberry Faire in Central Virginia is June 6. VDACS provides a month-by-month online listing of food festivals taking place across the state.
Fresh, local strawberries make a nutritious snack. Ounce for ounce, strawberries have more vitamin C than citrus fruit. They are naturally sweet and a very good source of antioxidants, dietary fiber, folate and potassium.