Heatwave brings strawberry season early
27 February 2019, 13:22 | Updated: 27 February 2019, 13:24
The first British-grown strawberries of the year will arrive in supermarkets this weekend after the recent unseasonably warm temperatures helped speed up the ripening process.
The berry season officially starts on May 1 and lasts until the end of September but even early glasshouse-grown varieties like those about to reach consumers have been helped by the mild winter and recent high light levels.
Britain basked in its hottest winter day on record on Tuesday when the mercury hit 21.2C (69.4F) in Kew Gardens, London.
That followed a record of 20.6C (68.5F) at Trawsgoed in Ceredigion, West Wales, on Monday, which beat the previous high in 1998 of 19.7C (67.4F) in Greenwich, south-east London.
Waitrose said it will be stocking the Lusa variety grown in glasshouses by Lancashire-based Medlar Fruit Farms from Saturday.
According to British Summer Fruits, the strawberry season was only six weeks long 25 years ago, but industry investment has extended this period to up to nine months.
Early batches of strawberries are normally grown in the warmer climates of Kent, Sussex and Wales.
But computerised glasshouse technology is allowing producers in Lancashire and Scotland to be among the first to deliver fruit to retailers.
Nicki Baggot, soft fruit buyer for Waitrose, said: "Despite some cold weather early on in the year, the last few weeks of sunshine have helped speed up the ripening process of our British strawberries.
"Spring is now well on its way and those wishing for sunnier climes can start to prepare summery dishes such as Eton Mess and strawberries and cream ... perfect on top of a pancake for Shrove Tuesday."
Waitrose British strawberries will be available for £3.50 for 260g in selected branches from March 1.