By Clint Thompson
A new era of Florida strawberry production continues this season with the Florida Pearl. The white strawberry that provides a hint of pineapple aroma when it is bitten is expected to experience a substantial increase in production in acres.
For Matt Parke, farm manager of Parkesdale Farms in Plant City, Florida, his farm is increasing to 15 acres this year.
“This will be the second year for me. I grew a quarter of an acre last year, and we liked the production on them. It’s interesting, a new market. We’re going to see how it goes,” Parke said. “It’s a brand-new product for the United States.
“You’re taking a new commodity and throwing it on the market. It could either be just the grandest of things or it could be the biggest bust we’ve ever done.”
Also Known as Pineberry
The white strawberry is also referred to as pineberry, a name given to white-fruited strawberries that have existed in small amounts.
“When you see it, it gets your mind turning like, that’s a white strawberry. It doesn’t look sweet. Everybody knows that to look for a sweet berry, you want a red one. You’re thinking this is an unripe berry. But it’s actually a very sweet berry,” Parke said. “It’s interesting. It’s a very dense berry, too. When you bite into it, it’s like you’re biting into a ripe peach. It’s very dense, not hollow, not necessarily soft.”
Vance Whitaker, UF strawberry breeder, said the vision of the industry is that this becomes a fifth berry in the berry category. It would join red strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. Time will tell if this vision becomes reality.
“We don’t know where it’s going to go. We didn’t go out and plant the whole farm. We’re taking baby steps. We don’t want to be left in the dust, but we don’t want to get too far into it where it could hurt us,” Parke said.