Skagit Sun owner Don Kruse can describe his Shuksan strawberries in just one word: sensational. And since he’s provided the Northwest with sweet and juicy berries for 32 years, we’ll take his word for it.
Originally from Fairbanks, Alaska, Kruse arrived in the Skagit Valley in 1979 with enough money to purchase 40 acres of land. A natural food store owner turned farmer, he settled near La Conner and began planting strawberries. Today, Skagit Sun (skagitsun.com) boasts more than 100 acres of berries, including 45 acres of the nine varieties of strawberries he grows. Each morning, Kruse and his crew handpick and personally deliver their berries to local grocery stores and farmers’ markets.
Sweet tooths will appreciate his Shuksan variety. With a short three-week season, these deep red berries leave your mouth watering, thanks to a wonderfully sugary flavor that practically pops on your tongue. Also in season for this month only are the Honeoye, Puget Reliance, Hood, Rainier, Tillamook and Puget Summer varieties, all small and delicious, though less popular than the intense Shuksans. His other berries, the Albion and Seascape, tend to be much bigger, and while not as sweet as his other varieties, they are available all the way through October.
“When I work at a farmers’ market and somebody comes up to the stand—maybe they’re not very familiar with local berries—they have an epiphany,” Kruse says. “It’s like, ‘Oh, this is what a strawberry is supposed to taste like!’ Just to be there and to see that—it’s one of life’s great simple pleasures.”
If you need some juicy strawberries to top your shortcake (see Lorna Yee’s recipe on page 70), find Kruse’s Skagit Sun berries at local Whole Foods and Metropolitan markets. He also sells at local farmers’ markets, including regionally in Coupeville and Snohomish and locally on Mercer Island and Queen Anne.