Shuksan strawberries, the intensely flavorful varietal beloved by local strawberry lovers, are now in season--but Pike Place Market shoppers might not know it.
Angelica Hayton of Hayton Farms in Mount Vernon grows Shuksans, but doesn't sell them at the market. Hayton says that Albions, Rainers, and Honeoyes are more visually appealing than the odd-shaped Shuksan.
"Not surprising, given the wet, cold spring," says Pike Place Market spokesman Scott Davies, who says he's also seen Sierras and Totems at the market this year.
"I had some Albions yesterday, and they are amazing," Davies reports.
Grower Chris McKnight, who heads Thulen Farms' berry operations, admits his popular Shuksans don't look like standard strawberries. "They're very distinct," he says. "They're almost ruffled. They're darker red, and the smooth part before the strawberry reaches the stem is a little bit longer."
Shuksans are also extremely perishable. But berry connoisseurs are attracted to the sweet juiciness of wrinkly Shuksans. "They're magical," writes Jon Rowley, the seafood promoter who a few years ago took a serious interest in Shuksans. Rowley this weekend is convening the third annual "Ultimate Northwest Strawberry Experience" at Thulen Farms. For $40, participants will have the chance to pick a half-flat of Shuksans, sample various strawberries side-by-side, and feast on strawberry shortcake and strawberry ice cream.
McKnight is fairly confident his Shuksans will be ready for the Saturday event. "Either A, everything is going to go fine, or B, worse-case scenario, there are no Shuksans," McKnight says. "There will be some other kind of berry."