|The strawberries are huge, juicy and sweet at Merry’s Berries, and they are ready for picking right now.|
Andy and Elizabeth Merry threw open the gates on their berry patch northeast of Antigo on Monday, and by this morning the word had gotten out that this may be an exceptional year with a little help from Mother Nature.
“We actually opened a bit earlier than I expected after such a late spring,” Merry said. “The berries are looking pretty good.”
Strawberries like moisture, Merry said, so the crop has been lapping up all the rain. Now, a bit of sun in the forecast will encourage the pickers, and help the fruit as well.
“Sunshine makes berries sweeter,” Merry said.
The main berries at Merry’s are Annapolis, a variety that is good for eating and freezing, allowing them to be a treat in the wintertime. Some early season Wendy berries were picked over the weekend, and will be ready again soon.
Sparkles and Cavendish varieties are also in the field and looking luscious.
According to the WebMD Internet reference site, the heart-shaped silhouette of the strawberry is the first clue that this fruit is good for you. These potent little packages protect your heart, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, lower your blood pressure, and guard against cancer.
Packed with vitamins, fiber, and particularly high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenols, strawberries are a sodium-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free, low-calorie food. They are among the top 20 fruits in antioxidant capacity and are a good source of manganese and potassium. Just one serving -- about eight strawberries -- provides more vitamin C than an orange.
Choose medium-sized berries that are firm, plump, and deep red; once picked, they don’t ripen further.
First cultivated in ancient Rome, strawberries are now the most popular berry fruit in the world. In provincial France, they were regarded as an aphrodisiac.
Merry’s Berries offers pick-your-own berries for $1.50 per pound, or prepicked orders for $3 a pound. It is open daily, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., supplies permitting. It will close early, at 1 p.m., on Independence Day.
The patch is located two miles west of Antigo on Highway 64 and then 2.5 miles north on Highway H.
Call ahead to 715 627-4630 for prepicked orders and conditions.
After months of planning, the season goes by quickly, with the harvest completed in late July.
But Merry will enjoy the fruits of his family’s labors far into the future.
“I eat berries every day of the year,” he admitted.
Three-year-old Arianna Whiting of Lena was eating, as well as picking, at Merry’s Berries this morning.