Strawberries to reach supermarket shelves ahead of schedule
British-grown strawberries are hitting supermarket shelves this week, more than two months before the start of the traditional season.
According to British Summer Fruits, a growers' association, the berry season officially starts on May 1 and lasts until the end of September.
However technological improvements and mild temperatures mean that producers across the UK will be supplying strawberries from the end of February.
M&S and Tesco will both have British-grown fruit in selected stores this week, with availability increasing throughout the spring.
Tesco's strawberry buyer Henry Maulik said: "The arrival of the first English strawberries marks the start of the UK fruit season, and is a great indicator that spring is just around the corner."
Customers will be able to buy the Lusa variety of the berry, which is known for its deep-red colour and aromatic flavour.
According to British Summer Fruits, the strawberry season was only six weeks long 25 years ago, but industry investment has extended this period to up to nine months.
Early batches of strawberries are normally grown in the warmer climates of Kent, Sussex and Wales.
But computerised glasshouse technology is allowing producers in Lancashire and Scotland to be amongst the first to deliver fruit to retailers.
Lancashire-based Medlar Fruit Farms is expecting to grow strawberries until mid-November this year.
Managing director Steve Ball said: "We're pleased to have been able to put Lancashire well and truly on the map for strawberries.
"We've been working with Tesco to extend the British season, so that shoppers can enjoy them for even longer."