By Clint Thompson
Interest continues to increase in the Florida Pearl strawberry, also known as the white strawberry and the pineberry. University of Florida (UF) strawberry breeder Vance Whitaker provided an update on acreage and what is expected for next season.
“The pineberries have done well this year from all accounts. We expect an increase in acreage next year. I believe all of the planting stock that was available has been bought up. We’re definitely looking at an increase. I think the outlook is very positive,” Whitaker said. “I believe that growers who have grown the pineberry have benefited from a very receptive market.”
Whitaker estimated that there were 150 acres of pineberries produced this year. That number should double next season.
The Florida Pearl provides a hint of pineapple aroma when it is bitten. The white strawberry’s origin at UF dates to 2012 when strawberry seeds from Japan were sown at the University of Florida. A few small plants recovered. The plants’ pollen was crossed with a Florida variety. The fruit’s seedlings ranged from white to pink to red.
Like all specialty crops, the pineberry has challenges to its production season; most notably, harvesting the crop.
“Harvesting the fruit is the main challenge. It has a little bit more of a narrow harvest window between underripe and overripe in order to make sure the fruit quality is ideal; and also, the pickers learning to recognize those stages, which is much more difficult with this berry than a red berry,” Whitaker said. “The pineberry variety that we currently have is not as early as our other varieties. The growers are currently dependent on having a good late season with this variety.
“There are a couple of challenges that makes is such that pineberry is not for every grower. That’s for sure.”
To learn more about this research and all of the other exciting things going on at the University of Florida’s Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, join us on November 2 for the Florida Ag Expo. Register now!