It is as summer as sangria and sun cream.
Yet the humble British strawberry, adored by the sporty set at Wimbledon, Ascot and Henley, is due in the shops today – pancake day – and we’re still in wintry February.
While the traditional season for homegrown strawberries does not officially begin until May 1, fruit grown in Lancashire and Scotland will be on sale in local supermarkets two months early.
Hard on the heels of National Strawberry Day yesterday, one grower based in Kirkham is picking, punneting and delivering to stores this morning, February 28.
“It is the first time for a very long time we have ever picked in February,” said a spokesman for Medlar Fruit Farms. “It’s normally March for our first crop.”
According to the growers’ body British Summer Fruits, the berry season is from May 1 to the end of September.
It is the first time for a very long time we have ever picked in February
Just 25 years ago it only lasted six weeks. But improvements in technology, coupled with milder temperatures, have now given growers up to nine months of production.
Medlar, of Solarium Nurseries in Kirkham, is one of Lancashire’s biggest strawberry producers .
Talking about the early harvest, managing director Steve Bell said: “We’re pleased to have been able to put Lancashire well and truly on the map for strawberries.
“We’ve been working with Tesco to extend the British season so that shoppers can enjoy them for even longer.”
Tesco and Marks and Spencer have said they will have British strawberries in selected stores today. Aldi said its Lancashire stores will also be stocking strawberries delivered by Medlar.
Henry Maulik, Tesco’s buyer, said: “The arrival of the first British strawberries marks the start of the UK fruit season and it is a great indicator that spring is just around the corner.”
Tony Baines, Joint Managing Director of Corporate Buying at Aldi, said: “We are pleased to offer British strawberries to customers in the Lancashire region even earlier, which was made possible through our partnership with local grower, Medlar Fruit Farm and our ongoing commitment to support all of our British partners.”
Did you know...? Here are a few facts about the humble strawberry
Here a five things you may not have known about the iconic strawberry.
Like a raspberry and a blackberry, the strawberry is not actually a berry because it wears its seeds on the outside.
Britain is not even in the top dozen producers worldwide, with South Korea, Russia and Germany well ahead of us on output.
The French believe they are an aphrodisiac and serve them to newlyweds at traditional wedding breakfasts.
Belgium has a museum dedicated to the strawberry and a shop selling strawberry beer.
Not all strawberries are red. They can come in yellow or even white varieties, called pineberries, which taste more like pineapple.