Mysterious Strawberries a Sweet Fit for South Florida?

Alpine strawberries

Alpine strawberries could be a potential niche crop for Florida growers. Local researchers are vetting varieties for production and market viability. Photo by Alan Chambers

University of Florida scientists reportedly have found another strawberry suited for the state’s already impressive growing portfolio. What’s different about Alpine strawberries? They are a wild bunch that are less commonly cultivated. But despite their unrefined nature, they just might hit a sweet spot for South Florida growers and consumers. According to researchers, while Alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca) are largely unknown to American consumers, the fruit is tasty, aromatic, and ideal for local markets.

UF/IFAS Assistant Professor Alan Chambers led a team of researchers that tested 16 types of Alpine strawberries in South Florida recently to see how well they would grow. Chambers and his team found the Alpine varieties they tested grew well during the winter in the region. After their initial trial in 2018, researchers held a field day and gave seeds to interested growers.

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“The flavor is intense and desirable,” said Chambers in a prepared news release. “Alpine strawberries are too soft for long-distance transportation, so farmers would be wise to sell them locally. I can see growers selling them directly to consumers and food services in Miami or wherever they’re grown.”

Alpine strawberries grow in the wild throughout the Northern Hemisphere. A few commercial growers in Europe produce the strawberry as well.

Strawberries are grown in many places in the Sunshine State, but the bulk is produced in Central Florida. South Florida strawberry production is limited in part by land prices caused by proximity of farm land to urban areas. But the Alpine strawberries could offer a new variety for farmers and local consumers, Chambers points out in a new research paper published in the journal HortScience. An abridged version of the paper can be found at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs1326.

According to Chambers, the next step is for UF/IFAS scientists to meet with Extension faculty in the fall to talk about the Alpine strawberries’ potential and that of several other new specialty crops.