Fort Mill Times

Paint the town red: It’s strawberry season in Fort Mill

Workers tend to the Springs Farm strawberry patch. The crop is in and the fruit is on sale at the Peach Stand, Springs Farm and is available for self-picking.
Workers tend to the Springs Farm strawberry patch. The crop is in and the fruit is on sale at the Peach Stand, Springs Farm and is available for self-picking. JEFF SOCHKO

The town’s annual S.C. Strawberry Festival (May 1-2) will soon be here.

Right on cue, local Strawberries grown at Springs Farm made their spring debut at The Peach Stand last week.

It takes dedication to grow the perfect strawberry.

At Springs Farm, the process of growing the sweet fruit starts in September, when the ground is prepared, farm Manager Ron Edwards said.

In early October, strawberry plants are planted by hand across 27 acres, with 14,500 plants per acre, Edwards said.

“It’s a lot of labor,” he said.

At Springs Farm, which has a store that will be open soon, the focus is on Albion and Camarosa strawberries.

“They are the best plants we have in our region,” Edwards said.

Strawberries are a more expensive crop to grow, as the plants must be protected from cold weather, he said. Often, farmers cover the plants and create a sheet of ice over them during winter to keep them from being harmed by frost.

“We have to watch them like a child,” Edwards said. “But to get the perfect strawberry, it’s what it takes.”

A soil test is recommended before planting, according the Clemson University Cooperative Extension. Springs Farm sends tissue samples of the strawberry plants to Clemson to be sure it is doing what is needed for the plants to thrive.

“We make sure that plant makes a nice strawberry,” he said.

Springs Farm strawberries typically ripen between April 15 and June 10, according to the farm’s website.

Strawberries: A local history

Strawberries first joined peaches and other crops lining the acres at Springs Farm in the mid-1980s, Edwards said.

The farm has been operating since 1936, producing fresh peaches, nectarine, blackberries and other produce, according to the farm’s website.

The strawberry season ends just as the peaches start coming to life, said Edwards, who has been with Springs Farm for more than 10 years.

The strawberry season “fits in perfectly with what we are already doing,” he said.

The red fruit was another way for the farm to bring in revenue and please customers, Edwards said.

“Everybody loves strawberries,” he said.

Local strawberries make the cut at CupCrazed

Local strawberries taste the sweetest; that’s the philosophy of Heather McDonnell, owner and founder of CupCrazed Bakery in Baxter Village.

McDonnell has been using Springs Farm strawberries for her cupcake creations since CupCrazed opened in 2010.

She said the farm delivers fresh strawberries to the bakery the day after they are picked.

“They’re really great,” McDonnell said.

CupCrazed sells its strawberry creations all year but uses local fruit when in season, she said.

“Strawberries are by far one of the top five things people want,” McDonnell said. “They are nuts for it.”

CupCrazed offers a strawberry lemonade and a berry mix cupcake, among many other delicacies.

On Valentine’s Day – and when it has extra strawberries – the bakery also offers Belgian-chocolate-covered strawberries.

Strawberries also often are used in simple jams when mixed with sugar or in sugar-free jams, according to the Clemson University Cooperative Extension.

Cooking with strawberries can be tricky, since the fruit liquefies when cooked, McDonnell said.

The fruit can’t be added to just any recipe, and bakers have to be careful to use ingredients that complement the consistency.

However, choosing the right strawberry is simple.

“The best strawberry is the tastiest,” she said. “It’s all about taste and freshness.”

Did you know?

1. The top three strawberry flavors at CupCrazed Bakery in Baxter Village are strawberry cheesecake, strawberry shortcake and triple strawberry, owner Heather McDonnell said.

2. Strawberries contain high amounts of vitamin C and antioxidants, help lower cholesterol and prevent cancer, according to the Springs Farm website.

3. The strawberry dates back to Greek and Roman times, when it was a wild plant, according to the University of Illinois Extension.

4. A legend of love: It is believed that if you break a double strawberry in half and share it, you will fall in love, according to the University of Illinois Extension.

5. The S.C. Strawberry Festival is from 4:30-11 p.m. May 1 and from 9 a.m.-10 p.m. May 2 at 453 N. White St. in Fort Mill. Friday’s (May 1) special musical guest is the Gin Blossoms.

6. Strawberries are available for purchase at Springs Farm Market and The Peach Stand. Families can also pick their own at Springs Farm in the spring.