Get ’em while they’re fresh

Rainier strawberries went on sale June 12 at Karen Selvar’s berry farm. - Julie Busch photo
Rainier strawberries went on sale June 12 at Karen Selvar’s berry farm.
— image credit: Julie Busch photo

It’s strawberry season, and a Day Road farm offers the best of Bainbridge.

Stone-solid and apple-green, truckloads of unripe Georgia tomatoes rattle around in Tom Nelsen’s memory.

As a truck driver, Nelsen used to shuttle loads of tomatoes and other produce across the country, from the sun-baked Georgia fields to supermarket chains in Butte or Baton Rouge or Boise.

After popping a few fresh strawberries into his mouth Monday at the Selvar berry stand off Day Road, Nelsen couldn’t help but contrast his current indulgence with the corporate produce of his past.

“I used to truck,” he said with a sly smile. “I know how they get ripe,” adding that the tomatoes he used to ship were loaded in trucks while still green, in hopes they would ripen during the long journey to market.

Berry season is upon the island, the annual, if unnecessary, reminder to those like Nelsen just how easily home-grown fruit shames the comparatively pedestrian supermarket variety.

Strawberries went on sale June 12, with early-arriving raspberries hitting the stand yesterday.

Karen Selvar, who runs the berry farm, grows rainier strawberries and meeker raspberries because she thinks they have the best flavor, though she said Rainier strawberries are more susceptible to disease.

Berries sell roadside for $13.50 per half flat or $3.00 per cup. She also sells berries to the neighboring winery and Town & Country Market.

Selvar said she’s optimistic about the season despite a slow start.

“It’s been a strange year,” she said. “The strawberries are late and the raspberries are early. It has been a bit cold and there was some mold in the field, but I think it will be a good year.”

Strawberry season usually begins around the end of May, with raspberries coming to fruit around the first of July.

Selvar, who was born on the island and grew up down the road from the 40-acre farm where she now grows her berries, has been working the land since she was 13.

She bought a portion of the farm from Akio Suyematsu in 1997 and also has farm land on Manzanita Drive.

For the first time, Selvar has hired interns to help pick berries, and is hopeful more young people will stimulate island farming, which has dwindled in recent years due to rising land costs.

“There aren’t a lot of new farmers,”she said. “There are only five of us out here.”

Still, for customers like Nelsen – who for the record bought two full flats of strawberries – local berries are a superior breed.

“They just taste better,” he said. “Taste them next to the ones you can buy in the supermarket and you’ll notice the difference.”

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