“Because of the rain, we were closed Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,” said Knightly of Fairwinds Berry Farm in Oxford.

On Saturday, his fields were full of customers and big, beautiful strawberries, as was the Chipman Farm in Minot.

“Today’s been great,” Knightly said. He stayed open later than normal Saturday so more berries could be picked, saving them from going bad.

Maine’s strawberry season, which is only about three weeks long, started off strong with good, plentiful berries, said David Handley, vegetable and small fruit specialist at Highmoor Farm in Monmouth.

But by Saturday, growers were down in the dumps “because the picking weather has been so bad,” Handley said. “The crop is good, but the quality can’t hold if it’s going to rain all over the fruit.”

Last week, a stretch of hot weather on Monday and Tuesday helped the berries ripen. But it also kept the customers home.

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, it rained, which kept customers away yet again. The rain was so heavy Friday that the fields were closed.

A needed break in the rain came Saturday.

“In spite of the rain, we do have a very nice crop,” Handley said Saturday.

But the berries need to be picked.

Sunday’s forecast, which is showing less chance of showers than other days, will be good for picking.

Handley recommends that strawberry lovers take advantage of Sunday’s weather and dodge the showers expected to follow early in the week.

Most growers raise several varieties that ripen at different times, Handley said. “But July 4 is really the tail-end of the season.” Fresh berries will be hard to come by after that, he said.

Statewide, strawberries are an important crop. They pale in volume compared to blueberries, which bring in between $20 million and $40 million a year. Most Maine blueberries are frozen and exported.

The annual value of strawberries is between $3 million and $6 million. “But they’re very important for each farmer,” Handley said. Maine farms often sell vegetables and strawberries as part of their income, somewhere between 10 and 50 percent.

In addition to supporting local farms, there’s another reason to eat strawberries; they’re even healthier than once believed.

“Strawberries do three really great things: They give us fiber, antioxidant and Vitamin C, which are each healthy in their own right,” said Mia Courtemanche, a dietitian at St. Mary’s Health System in Lewiston.

The main benefit of fiber is contributing to a healthy digestive system and preventing constipation, Courtemanche said. Vitamin C improves the body’s immune system, preventing or helping cure the common cold and more serious illnesses.

“Antioxidants are great; they have an anti-inflammatory effect,” Courtemanche said. “Research is being shown that they can prevent cancer. Strawberries are even better than we thought.”

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.