Spring is in the air and that means strawberry picking time in Texas.
Nearly 100,000 people from across the state are preparing to invade Poteet, long known as the Strawberry Capital of Texas, when the 67th Annual Poteet Strawberry Festival kicks off April 4-6.
But considering the extended winter this year, will there be enough berries to go around?
Cora Lamar grows famous Poteet strawberries on her Oak Hills Farm just outside of Poteet. Just coming off a successful spinach g season, she says because of late freezes and a consistently cold late winter, she is just beginning to get the first fruits off her strawberry plants.
“We’re off to a late start; around this time we’re normally in full swing, but our berries have frozen off twice this year due to the cold weather, putting us three weeks behind our regular schedule,” she reported. “Obviously, I didn’t like the freezing temperatures, but what they wound up doing was to help prune the plants, so now what berries remain are a bit larger than they usually are.”
Larger, but not any less sweet. Lamar believes that as long as she lets them ripen on the plant long enough, then all her strawberries, despite their size or variety, are going to be equally sweet and flavorful.
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“What makes the Poteet Strawberry so sweet is we wait until they’re good and ripe on the plant before we ship them, and because we don’t have a very large shipping radius, about 150 miles or so, we don’t have to worry about over ripening ruining the berries in the shipping process like larger growers do in states like California and Florida.”
Lamar mainly sells wholesale to Texas-based H.E.B. Food Stores’ distribution center in San Antonio and to other local distributors
Overall, Lamar says it looks like it could be a good year for strawberries, which means the Poteet Strawberry Festival won’t be any less crowded.
“It is absolutely unreal how many people go through the gate of this festival. This sleepy little town welcomes at least a 100,000 people to the festival every year,” she says. “Saturday and Sunday are without a doubt the biggest days of the Festival. Saturday is the grower's contest, which is judged around noon, and shortly after there is an auction where businesses from around the state bid on berries by the bulk."
She says the bidders especially bid heavily on the crowned grand champion berries at the festival. But a big crowd isn’t the only thing guaranteed by staging the annual festival. With such a limited supply of authentic Poteet strawberries available and a demand that exceeds the supply, by staging the annual festival, local growers can guarantee that every strawberry sold on the festival grounds is certified locally grown.
Festival officials made that ruling several years back because of the large number of out-of-area strawberries that were showing up in the community in recent years.
"This is how we control offering only the best and sweetest strawberries available in the state," she adds. “Everyone makes their money by selling their berries in town, but there are fruit stands up and down the highway from growers from other regions. That's why the festival guarantees a true Poteet flavor in all the berries on the fairgrounds.”
Regardless, since demand out-paces the supply of Poteet strawberries, there is always the chance you’ll get to the fruit stand just a hair too late. What happens if they’ve sold out?
“I don’t sell my strawberries right from the farm, but I do go to a farmers market in San Antonio held at the Old Pearl Brewery called The Pearl Farmers Market. In recent years the old brewery has undergone renovations and has become part of the famous San Antonio famous River Walk.
"You can find me there every Saturday in season. I sell berries and vegetable in season from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.”
For more information on the strawberry festival including the musical lineup and other activities, visit the official website at http://strawberryfestival.com.