Early harvest to yield bounty of fruit in Montgomery -- Gazette.Net



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Some fruit grown in the county is ripening as much as a month ahead of schedule, Montgomery farm market owners said this week.

Among crops already ripe at Lewis Orchards in Dickerson are apricots and black raspberries, a month ahead of schedule, and a peach variety known as Spring Snow, usually not ready to pick until June 30, said Linda Lewis, who owns the business with her family.

“Trying to guess when things will be ready has been very difficult this year,” Lewis said.

Asked when she last saw peaches ripe three weeks early, Lewis said “never” in the 30 years she has helped with the family’s orchards and fields.

Tart cherries are ready or ripening now, a week or more early, growers said.

Lewis and other growers said the unusually warm winter seems to be the reason.

“I don’t think there will be any strawberries for Father’s Day,” said Susan Butler of family-owned Butler’s Orchard in Germantown where strawberry picking began May 11 — early by 10 days to two weeks.

But Butler said Dad might enjoy blueberries which are ready now — roughly 8 days ahead of harvest time last year.

So too might children getting out of school with visions of strawberry picking in their heads, Butler said.

Across the state strawberries were at least two weeks early, said Julie Oberg, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

“The problem now is getting the word out to customers,” said Gene Kingsbury whose family’s Kingsbury’s Orchard farm stand in Dickerson will open June 15. Like other growers, the Kingsburys moved their opening date up more than two weeks because produce was ready.

Kingsbury said he also has peaches ripe now and expects later varieties also to ripen two to three weeks early.

He said customers should figure that fruit will be ready as much as two and half weeks earlier than usual.

Later season tree fruit, such as pears and apples, are likely to be early as well, but probably not as much, growers said.

Perennial crops are most affected because their life cycle goes through winter.

Harvests of annual crops, which are planted from seed every year, should not be affected, growers said, because they did not go through winter.

Peas, for example, look like they will finish about the same time, Butler said.

However, statewide pea harvests are closer to complete this week than they were at the same time last year, according a U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

Yet sweet corn is “going into tassel” in Montgomery County fields and is likely to be ready to eat by July 4, eight to 11 days earlier than the usual harvest here, Lewis said.

mhyslop@gazette.net