Juice: Wimbledon tennis fans may savour bigger strawberries after wet weather

Juice: Wimbledon tennis fans may savour bigger strawberries after wet weather

Tennis fans may be treated to juicier strawberries at Wimbledon this year after a wet and dark winter slowed growing times, resulting in bigger and more flavoursome fruits.

Growers said the further wet and cold weather this spring, as well as less sunlight, had delayed the British strawberry season by a fortnight, with the main harvest expected at the end of this month.

While strawberry lovers may have to wait slightly longer for the fruit to appear on the shelves, the delay has meant British-grown strawberries have ripened and flowered more gradually, resulting in unusually large, juicy fruits.

Nick Marston, the chair of British Berry Growers (BBG), said: “The slower ripening period will allow flavours to develop as the strawberries grow to become particularly large and juicy. It will be a fantastic year for British strawberries.”

Farmers across the country have borne the brunt of the extreme wet weather this winter, with 11 named storms since September.

Many farms have been left flooded, leaving swathes of crops damaged and fields unable to be planted on.

However, many of the strawberry crops have been grown under polytunnels that have protected them from the elements.

According to the BBG, consumers will start seeing these bigger fruits, which will be between 28mm and 40mm, on the shelves this week, and throughout the summer.

Strawberries, along with raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, continue to be the most popular fruit item in shoppers’ baskets, with the biggest market share – at 28% – of all fruit sold in the UK.

Over the last 12 months, shoppers spent a record £847m on strawberries, Kantar figures show.

Marston said larger varieties of the other berries may be seen later this year, depending on conditions.

He said: “These crops come into full production later, raspberries in mid- to late June, blueberries in late July, and blackberries in June to the beginning of July.

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“If it’s cool, the berries ripen more slowly and create bigger sizes; if it is blazing hot they grow and ripen more quickly, and are on the shorter side.”

Despite super-sized strawberries being readily available for British consumers, those in Europe may find it trickier to get their hands on the juicier fruits as post-Brexit rules have made it harder for growers to send produce to the continent. Since 2020, strawberry exports to the EU have dropped by 79%, according to the BBG.

Marston said since leaving the single market exports to the EU needed a phytosanitary health certificate, usually issued by plant health inspectors from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

He said: “If you want a consignment inspected, you have to give four days’ notice. Strawberries are perishable goods, and retailers in the UK and Europe typically place their order 48 hours in advance.

“That timescale [from Defra] just doesn’t work, and we have had a meeting with the farming minister, Mark Spencer, to actually expedite that process.”