County fruit is cream of crop

MD Steve Bell and director Rose Bell of Medlar Farms Ltd inspect fruit
MD Steve Bell and director Rose Bell of Medlar Farms Ltd inspect fruit
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It is as summerey 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 Tuesday – 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 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 spokesperson 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. Only 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 shoopers can enjoy them for even longer.”

Tesco and Marks & Spencer have said they will have British strawberries in selected stores today. 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.”