Summer is not behaving as it should this season and this is taking a toll on the fruit and vegetable producers at the Harvest Launceston Community Farmers’ Market. Usually trestle tables are burdened with cherries, apricots and berries. Zucchini flowers add a note of gaiety and tomatoes are beginning to burst with that wonderful intense flavour of summer.
Instead the seasons are lagging by two to three weeks. As with the peonies, whose beautiful blossom made a brief appearance at the market a bit later than usual in spring, cherry and apricot producers are describing this season as one of surprises and extremes. The rain of the past few days is taking its toll on some of the fruit, causing them to split.
Isobel Marshall from Ferniehurst Cherries noted that the entire cherry season was two to three weeks late. She does not think that the season will be longer or that the fruit is later ripening. “It is just that the whole season is just late.” The trees flowered later than normal as the wet winter kept everything dormant for longer.
Optimists speak of a more relaxed Christmas instead of the frantic rush to get cherries picked and to market, although Sally Dakis of Richmond Cherries did not quite manage to put all her Christmas decorations up. However, she is hoping that some of the adverse conditions of 2016 will lead to potentially larger fruit to compensate for the poor fruit set caused by the cold and showery spring.
Isobel also noted that the wet weather meant that unlike the previous season, they did not have to rely on irrigation and frost did not make an appearance at flowering time which reduced the yield. This time Isobel is hoping that if the rain stays away, they can get the rest of the crop off the trees to make for a better 2016/17 season.
At Richmond Cherries the wild June weather saw winds of up to 124 km/h that caused some heartbreak as nets were shredded leading to long hours and weeks up in a cherry picker resetting. But the flowering seasons lifted spirits as it is “always a happy time with busy bees” although the old showery weather did dampen the bees’ enthusiasm.
However, despite all these challenges, the pickers – flexible family and friends – are out and about in the cherry paddocks across the State to delight Harvest Launceston market goers with delicious and succulent cherries.
And finally some warmer weather last week meant that the apricots were transformed into “orange balls of sweetness” and made their first appearance at the market. Over at Steve’s Vegies, zucchini flowers are just starting to emerge together with raspberries and strawberries from Westerway Raspberry Farm and Sheffield Berry Farm.
Hoping the rain stays away and the wonderful Tasmanian berry season continues at the Harvest Launceston Community Farmers’ Market for weeks to come.