W. Mass. growers say strawberry crop is coming on strong

What makes for the ideal strawberry crop? Just the right amount of moisture and sun, and that’s exactly what strawberry farmers in Western Massachusetts say they have gotten during this season’s growing period.

This year’s strawberries are especially good for just that reason, according to Jimmy Pasiecnik, owner of J.M. Pasiecnik Farms in Whately.

“This year’s crop is very sweet,” Pasiecnik, 54, said. “Just juicy and very sweet.”

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There has been plenty of moisture and lots of sun during this year’s growing period, he said, but it hasn’t been too hot, which can cause the berries to turn too quickly and rot before being harvested.

“With strawberries, the more sun you have, the sweeter they are,” Pasiecnik said.

It gets better: The strawberries “that we’ve just started to pick have the highest sugar levels that you can get,” said Nate Nourse, owner of Whately’s Nourse Farms.

During the month of May, the National Weather Service station in Worcester recorded 14 fair/sunny days, 11 partly cloudy days, and six cloudy days, according to meteorologist Bill Simpson. Worcester also reported 4.45 inches of precipitation for the month, just above the normal 4.19 inches.

The prime growing weather has put Western Massachusetts roughly a week ahead of the long-term average growing season, which normally lasts 50 days, according to climatologist Samantha Borisoff at the Northeast Regional Climate Center, based out of Cornell University.

Joe Czajkowski, 55, owner of Lakeside Pick Your Own Strawberries, said he was able to open a week ahead of schedule, with Father’s Day being the traditional start of the strawberry picking season. Pasiecnik said he too was able to open his farmstand a week early because the berry conditions have been so peachy.

Nourse, 48, estimates that, thanks to this season’s conditions, his berry picking season will be extended by at least five days into the end of July.

As for the perfect strawberry, Nourse said, look for one with no white tip, and red at least on one side of the berry, if not all sides. Pasiecnik said to look for nice plump, red berries.

“It’s very different from the ones you’d see in the supermarket,” Nourse said.

Nourse’s farms will begin their pick-your-own season for the berries Friday, and he is looking forward to the season ahead.

“It’s really neat because we’ve had all this rain to make these great berries and a gorgeous weekend up ahead,” Nourse said. “It’s going to be really good business.”