FARMINGTON — While nature has started its autumn coloring of the trees, David Pike's strawberry fields are just as colorful.
Nearly 50 quarts of fresh strawberries were picked Friday and 100 quarts on Thursday from beds of day neutral plants. Quarts of fresh strawberries from Pike's Strawberries are available in a couple of local stores, he said.
Customers think they are from out of state and are surprised to realize the boxes sitting on the counter are local, a store clerk in Tranten's said.
With covering applied on nights that are too chilly, the picking is expected to last into November, Pike's wife, Verna, said.
The berries normally picked in June come from appropriately named June berry plants, which like long days, she said. For the day neutral variety, it doesn't matter how long or short the day is; they just don't like hot weather. Some years they start to produce in the spring then stop till late in August.
Many day neutral plants are raised in California and Nova Scotia and Quebec, she said.
Pike has raised the later blooming berries for the past few years, supplying some to the local high school and stores.
"People say they taste better than the summer berries," he said.
An experimental 100-foot row of plants sit under a built-up plastic tent this year in an effort to extend the season till the end of November.
Heavy road-cover plastic goes over the plants when there is a threat of frost, he said. The frost hasn't arrived yet. If it's too cold, the blossoms will frost out and there are no new berries produced.
Pike said he plans to talk about the day neutral plants in November at a Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Farm to Farm Conference in Northport, and again in December at a New England Vegetables and Fruit Growers meeting in Manchester.