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Hot weather kicks off berry season

  • Raspberries are ripening at Rosaly’s Farmstand in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Blueberries are ripening at Rosaly’s Farmstand in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Keria Parker, 7, of Princeville, Hawaii, picks blueberries off the bush at Monadnock Berries in Troy. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Raspberries are ripening at Rosaly’s Farmstand in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Raspberries and blueberries are ripening at Rosaly’s Farmstand in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Scott Parker of Princeville, Hawaii, enjoys picking early blueberries at Monadnock Berries in Troy. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Maisie Shuffelton-Sobe, 11, of Chicago, picks raspberries for a pie at Monadnock Berries in Troy. Shuffelton-Sobe visits Monadnock Berries every year while visiting with her grandmother in Harrisville. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Alex Gagnon, 8, of Troy, foregoes his bucket to munch on a berry straight from the bush at Monadnock Berries in Troy. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Jim Gagnon of Troy searches for the ripest berries on a bush at Monadnock Berries in Troy. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Maisie Shuffelton-Sobe, 11, of Chicago, picks raspberries for a pie at Monadnock Berries in Troy. Shuffelton-Sobe visits Monadnock Berries every year while visiting with her grandmother in Harrisville. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Monadnock Berries in Troy is open early for pick-your-own blueberries and raspberries this year, after a heatwave in July jumpstarted the ripening process. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Maisie Shuffelton-Sobe, 11, of Chicago, picks raspberries for a pie at Monadnock Berries in Troy. Shuffelton-Sobe visits Monadnock Berries every year while visiting with her grandmother in Harrisville. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, July 09, 2018 5:52PM

Last week’s heatwave seems to have ended the strawberry season before it had a chance to begin this summer and made way for blueberry picking earlier than expected in the season.

Monadnock Berries in Troy is open for business – nearly a week earlier than their intended season opening day, due to the heatwave that slammed the region the first week of July, pushing berries into ripeness more quickly than usual.

“We had those eight crazy days, and the berries were ripening very rapidly,” said Emerald Levick, whose parents own Monadnock Berries. “We opened on Saturday – we just had to.”

Originally, Monadnock Berries planned to open July 15, mid-July being a common start to the season for several of its staple berries, including blueberries, raspberries, currants and gooseberries.

But most of those crops have already come in, thanks to the weather, Levick said. Even the black currants, which usually come in at the end of July, are ready now.

“I was out in the field, and they were already black. I was shocked,” Levick said.

The heat has impacted other growers as well. Krista Salamy, owner of Tenney Farm in Antrim, said the heat combined with a lack of rain has meant that the farm has been forced to irrigate its crops this year.

“A lot of the vegetables are starting to curl,” Salamy said.

Irrigation isn’t a normal practice for the farm, Salamy said, especially not at this point in the Summer. Sometimes, the farm has had to supplement with irrigation in August, but this year, they had to purchase a tanker and water their zucchini and melon crop manually.

Tenney Farm usually also has a strawberry crop, she said, which grows throughout the month of June, but she doesn’t know how the heatwave might have impacted them, because they never got the chance to grow in the first place.

“We lost our whole crop,” Salamy said.

“Winterkill” or exposure to cold weather conditions was responsible for the strawberries not coming in this year, she said. The possible cause was a stretch of unusually warm weather in January and February, which could have caused the plants to start growing before they should have, exposing them to the cold when the temperatures dropped again.

One of their other berry crops, the raspberry, is already ripening.

“They started July 4, which is early for them,” Salamy said.

Gordon Webber, who manages Patten Hill Farm, a pick-your-own blueberry operation in Antrim, said that his blueberries are right on track to open for the regular season, which will begin this weekend.

While Monadnock Berries had sufficient blueberries for a limited pick-your-own opening, Webber said his berries are only showing early color at the moment. The Patten Hill Farm bushes are laden with berries, but are not ripe enough to be picked, he said.

“There’s a lot of berries, so it’s going to be a good year,” said Webber, who grows four varieties of blueberries. “They were behind for awhile, so the heat did accelerate them. They plump right up when it gets hot.”

The heat seemed to shorten the strawberry season, Salamy said, with her strawberry providers – including Lull Farm, Brookdale Fruit Farm and Barrett Hill – reporting their strawberries ripened all at once, including varieties intended to start later in the season. The heat may mean a short season for other berries, too, if it persists, said Levick. She recalled the summer of 2008, a hot summer with little rain where the blueberries withered on the bush.

“It was very unfortunate,” she said. “Nobody was happy.”

Monadnock Berries is currently open from 8 a.m. to noon for pick-your-own berries. Patten Hill Farm blueberries will open on July 14.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.