Alaska’s berry crop varies by region

  • Monday, August 17, 2015 12:00am
  • News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska’s mild winter and spring weather has been a mixed blessing for berry pickers.

“Painting a broad brush, it’s a good year,” said Pat Holloway, retired University of Alaska Fairbanks horticulture professor. “But you’ll still hear people grumbling.”

Not all berry patches are thriving, she said, because of the diversity of Alaska’s microclimates.

Conditions at one berry picking spot might be vastly different than those just a few miles away, she said. While a mild spring prevented frost and let pollinators roam freely, it also meant that some patches lacked the necessary moisture or temperature for optimal berry production.

Fairbanks berries came in early this year thanks to warm weather in the region, said Holloway.

Retired Anchorage home economics teacher and lifelong berry picker Carol Ross said her family’s homestead didn’t produce any blueberries this year, although it’s usually a good source of the fruit.

But she heard blueberries were abundant at nearby Hatcher Pass.

Horticulture and agriculture agent Steve Brown of UAF Cooperative Extension Palmer said Hatcher Pass was busier than he’d ever seen it during a recent visit.

“I don’t think there would be that many people if the picking wasn’t very good,” said Brown.

The raspberry bushes Ross grows at her Anchorage Big Bear Bed and Breakfast are, on the other hand, overflowing with berries.

Ross said she and her sister picked four gallons of raspberries earlier in the week but still have more work cut out for them. UAF Cooperative Extension agent Leslie Shallcross said Alaska is right in the middle of blueberry season. Raspberries are just finishing up, she said, and cranberries will begin to ripen in the next few weeks.

 

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