Louisiana Strawberry Yield Strong, Local Restaurants and Festivals Celebrate
Earlier this year, Louisiana strawberry enthusiasts were treated to a particularly bountiful and juicy winter harvest, the result of a mild fall that helped fledgling plants produce a robust first turn, says William Fletcher of Fletcher Farms, Ponchatoula grower and marketer of the Red Stick Farmers Market.
Now, after a hiatus in late February, those same plants are back in full swing, producing the sweet, ripe fruit we associate with spring in Louisiana.
“The traditional strawberry harvest in the state runs from mid-March to mid-May, with Mother’s Day being the unofficial finish line for the fruit,” says Fletcher.
Fletcher plants 90,000 strawberry plants in the fall, which he says will equate to about 13,500 flats (or 162,000 pints) of strawberries if weather conditions cooperate. While the warm fall provided Louisiana growers with more than the usual number of strawberries in January and February, farmers still have to navigate spring conditions to judge how the season as a whole is going. Flooding from April downpours is still a threat, but farmers are hoping the 2022 season will end strong, Fletcher says.
This month is the perfect time to sample local strawberries, easily found at regional farmers markets and independent supermarkets. By-products are also in good quantity. Fletcher and his wife, Ginger, for example, recently created a line of items from their berries. It includes single-serve smoothies, pepper jelly, quick bread, salad dressing, pancake syrup, and other items.
Also keep your eyes peeled for local berries on spring menus. Rocca offers an appetizer in which creamy burrata and grilled ciabatta are served with poached and marinated strawberries, arugula and mint pesto and balsamic vinegar. And restaurant Eliza’s seasonal strawberry shortcake is back. The detailed take on the classic dessert includes homemade buttermilk cookies, whipped cream and ponchatoula macerated strawberries, says co-owner Sally Davis.
“When strawberry production slows down,” she says, “it disappears from the menu until next year.”
One of the most beloved strawberry-centric activities in the state also happens this month. The Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival returns after back-to-back cancellations in 2020 and 2021, and just in time. The festival celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and will take place from April 8 to 10, 2022. Find Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival on Facebook.
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