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Patterson Farm strawberries draw early Sunday morning crowd

MOUNT ULLA — Patterson Farm’s pick-your-own-strawberry patch opened Saturday, April 22, and locals are already flocking to enjoy the memory-making experience.

This year, extended and early Sunday morning hours allow even more chances to harvest. By 10:30 Sunday morning, strawberry fields were abuzz with activity.

Michelle Patterson, treasurer and “Director of Fun” at the farm, is pleased with how the plants are producing, especially in light of recent volatile weather.

“It’s been a challenging year for strawberries, but they’re looking great now,” she said. “We had that freeze that we had to deal with, so they’ve been a lot of work.”

Patterson said that rapidly changing cold and hot temperatures during the pollination process left many early berries misshapen. Others were damaged by recent heavy rain, with an estimated 20 percent of crops being lost.

“We ended up picking a lot … and just throwing them away,” Patterson said, “but the strawberries that we’re picking now are beautiful. They have a really good taste, so it’s been going well.”

In North Carolina, strawberry plants continue to bloom and produce fruit throughout the season, from late April and in to the first or second week of June. Berries take about 30 days to transform from blossoms to fully ripe fruits.

Patterson offered the following tips for those interested in the pick-your-own experience:

  • Call ahead or check the Patterson Farm website/Facebook for picking conditions. The patch may close due to weather.
  • Dress appropriately. This includes wearing sunscreen and the color red, so clothes aren’t stained with strawberry juice.
  • Look for strawberries that are red all over when picking. A properly picked strawberry is pinched from the stem above the cap so the fruit is not bruised.
  • Refrigerate your berries as soon as possible. Berries require refrigeration because of their high sugar content, which increases throughout the season as local temperatures rise.
  • Wash your berries just before consuming. Berries that are washed before refrigeration will deteriorate faster.

Strawberries are sold by the quart or four-quart basket. For those not interested in picking, pre-picked baskets are available in the Patterson Farm Market as well.

“The strawberries we supply are picked fresh and fully ripe,” Patterson said. “North Carolina berries typically taste better than berries from other states. The fact that they’re fresh and local makes them even better.”

The Patterson Farm Market and pick-your-own strawberry patch is located on Caldwell Road. Strawberry season hours are Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m to 6 p.m.

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