Producing a white strawberry was the first challenge for University of Florida/IFAS strawberry breeder Vance Whitaker. The next is figuring out how to market it so it could be a viable option for Florida producers in the future.
Whitaker said there are 12 acres test marketed in different chain stores this year. They will have a better grasp on how the fruit’s outlook after this season.
“There’s some interest certainly in the industry in trying to make it the fifth berry in the berry category. It has a unique look. It has a unique flavor. It doesn’t taste like a typical strawberry,” Whitaker said. “The key is just trying to get somebody to try it. They first look at it and say, ‘What is that?’ If they try it, they generally like it. I think it’s a product that the growers here are just going to have to figure out how do you introduce this. It’s just a very different type of situation.”
Future in Food Service
The fruit could potentially have a future, especially in the food service industry, particularly with high-end restaurants.
“Growers tell me that the chefs that they’ve sent them to so far really like them. It’s definitely a unique element to use in food as far as just a visual decorating kind of standpoint as well as the different kinds of uses,” Whitaker added. “I think that’s going to be another important aspect with the leading edge being kind of the foodie crowd that looks for new things and maximize the advantages of things that are unusual.”
White Strawberry’s Origin
The idea of the white strawberry gained most notoriety in Japan where it was very popular. But those varieties were not conducive to Florida agriculture. According to Whitaker, in 2012, strawberry seeds from Japan were sown at the University of Florida, and a few small plants recovered. The plants’ pollen were crossed with a Florida variety. The seedlings from this fruit ranged from white to pink to red.
“It has a sweet taste, similar to a strawberry but the aroma is different. The flavor is different,” Whitaker said. “It’s a little bit hard to describe but there is a little bit of pineapple aroma sometimes when you bite into it. For that reason, people are calling it a pineberry. Pineberry is a name that’s been used for some white-fruited strawberries that have existed in small amounts over the years.”