Kent Messenger Maidstone
Strawberry farm’s served Wimbledon for 25 years
Much of growing season revolves around tennis tournament
As the oldest tennis competition in the world gets underway, thousands of spectators will be watching while tucking into a traditional treat of strawberries and cream.
At this year’s Wimbledon it is estimated around 27,000kgs of the delicious fruit will be consumed - or to put it into perspective, the same weight as 328 Andy Murrays.
In total around 166,000 portions will be sold over the course of the two-week competition, held at The All England Tennis Club. Hugh Lowe Farms in Maidstone has been one of the strawberry suppliers for the past 25 years. This time round they are planning on sending more than 30 tonnes to the tournament. Despite growing many different varieties on its farms, the company will solely be providing Wimbledon with the Malling Centenary species which are grown at the NIAB EMR research station in East Malling.
The crops are planted so the fruit peaks during the fortnight of the competition.
Specially trained pickers start working at 5.30am to hand harvest the berries before they are cooled, weighed and despatched to the championships within 24 hours.
Owner Marion Regan said: “We have been growing strawberries here since the Victorian days. “We grow a lot of strawberries and raspberries on our farm and several hectares are dedicated to Wimbledon.
“We employ several hundred pickers but a team of 40 people pick the fruit for this order. “I like mine straight from the punnet but there are many ways to eat fresh strawberries; on breakfast cereal, in fresh savoury salads or with ice cream. I eat strawberries all through the day.
“I am excited and always look forward to this time of year.”
‘We employ several hundred pickers but a team of 40 people pick the fruit for this order’
There are around 103 species of strawberry in the world. Thanks to modern cultivation methods the UK grows enough to be fully self sufficient from May to September, when it is prime strawberry season.
However, the nation’s appetite is satisfied throughout the rest of the year by importing from other countries such as Spain, Israel and Morocco.
The UK’s soft fruit industry is worth an estimated £1.2 billion.