Lambasingi’s farms embrace new varieties of strawberries to improve sales and draw more visitors. Try them off the plant or in a spoonful of jam
The morning sun slices through the winter mist across large patches of strawberry fields in Lambasingi, a small village perched on the Eastern Ghats in Chintapalli mandal, Visakhapatnam district. Stooping over the neat rows, farm workers get to work gently plucking the red juicy fruit and dropping it into their baskets.
In this part of the country, strawberries have been paying sweet dividends for the past five years, ever since the crop was introduced in the region. While Winter Dawn is the common variety of strawberry grown here, buoyed by the success of strawberry production in Lambasingi, this season growers have introduced new varieties: San Andreas, Murano, Nabila, Florence and Flaminia. The reason: A growing demand for bigger varieties of strawberries. The new varieties have large berries giving it an attractive appearance and has a sweeter flavour. The San Andreas variety also has excellent overall disease resistance.
Known for its mist and single digit temperatures in winters, Lambasingi’s popularity shot up after its first harvest of strawberries, and the farms soon became a crowd-puller.
As you drive through the winding ghat road to enter Lambasingi, hoardings invite you to visit the farms. Here, the ‘pick and pack’ experience allows visitors to harvest, taste and buy the fruit at the farm.
This winter unseasonal rains and cyclonic storms have been a challenge. The delayed crop makes Prasanna Kumar Dasari of Happy Strawberry Farm in Lambasingi anxious. “Strawberry season begins by November end, but this time there has been a delay of four weeks. Last year by this time, we had sold nearly 200 kilograms. But this month it is just 30 kilograms so far,” says Prasanna. The fruit is currently being sold for ₹500 per kilogram.
In his five-acre farm, 50,000 runner plants of winter dawn as well as 20,000 of the varieties of San Andreas, Murano, Nabila and Florence have been planted this year. These newer varieties are bigger taste slightly different from tangy Winter Dawn. However, Winter Dawn continues to be the dominant variety here due to higher yield.
“The mother plant is from Mahabaleshwar from where we get the runner plants. These are imported from California and parts of Europe,” Prasanna explains, adding that it took his team more than a year of trial and error to find the ideal way to grow the crop and harvest strawberries in Lambasingi. In the first year, they planted 12,000 runner plants of Winter Dawn out of which only 6,000 survived.
For strawberry picking
- Book your slot well ahead by contacting the farms.
- Pick the berries that are completely red. Ensure that the stem is left intact while picking the fruit.
- The best time to visit Lambasingi is from December end to January.
- Strawberry season ends by March.
Since then, they have come a long way. In the peak season of December and January, their farm gets over 10,000 visitors a day during weekends. Last season, his farm saw a record 25,000 visitors during the weekends in January. Apart from the strawberry fields, the region’s winter mist and largely unexplored trekking trails, nearby waterfalls and vantage points for a bird’s eye view of the mist engulfed Eastern Ghats are a draw for tourists. The local communities have got together to start a small adventure sports zone at the water body in Lambasingi where boating and zip line activities are held.
Where to stay
- Located at 1,000 metres above sea level, Lambasingi is an upcoming tourist destination. Hotels are limited and basic, yet room rates can be high even in basic places during weekends when the tourist inflow is high. A number of tents have come up to cater to the growing tourist demand. Currently, AP Tourism Development Corporation runs four tented accommodations on double occupancy basis.
As the peak tourism season arrives, SU Bhaskar Raju, founder of Teja Strawberry Farm, is hopeful that the projected weather conditions over the next couple of weeks will help make up for the loss due to crop delay. “Strawberry is a delicate crop and prone to diseases. The plant grows best at about 15 to 10 degree Celsius of temperature. In the past three days, the temperatures have fallen to that mark and we are expecting a good produce by the end of December,” says Raju. He has introduced two new varieties of strawberries this season – Nabila and Flamina. “There was demand for other varities like these from some of our regular clients in Visakhapatnam. These strawberry varieties are bigger in size and have a slight intensely red sheen over the entire surface. The flesh is sweet, very juicy,” he adds.
The Lambasingi strawberries are also used to make other by-products like jam which is becoming popular here. “We made 10,000 bottles of jam last season and they were all sold out here itself. This year we plan to scale up the production during the peak season,” says Raju.
Tourist arrivals have picked up though with the temperatures dropping in the past one week. “Sweet and fresh,” says G Ankita Roy, who tasted her first farm picked strawberries last weekend at Lambasingi. “This is a delightful experience of being able to harvest the fruit and taste it. The best part of it is you get to understand so much about the strawberry crop, which is the right shade of fruit to pluck, which ones to leave out. It is an educational experience,” says Ankita who drove down with family from Visakhapatnam.