New UF-developed strawberry varieties are bred with a focus on flavor
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With the time for Florida growers to plant strawberries right around the corner, it wonâ€™t be long before Florida-grown strawberries appear in grocery aisles.
And for some of the best-tasting strawberries on the market according to multiple taste panels and tests, shoppers can simply look for those grown in the Sunshine State, thanks to work by the University of Florida.
Researchers with UFâ€™s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have continued to improve the quality and flavor of Florida-grown strawberries, as evident in their latest releases of the cultivars Winterstar and Florida Sensation.
Winterstar will be available in grocery aisles this winter while Florida Sensation is slated to be available next year.
And while the strawberries wonâ€™t be labeled by variety, consumers should look for the Fresh From Florida logo or some other indication that they were grown somewhere in Florida, such as in Plant City, the stateâ€™s strawberry capital.
Test panels have often rated Winterstarâ€™s taste above the leading variety in the state, Florida Radiance, said Vance Whitaker, a UF/IFAS strawberry breeder based at UFâ€™s Gulf Research and Education Center in Balm.
â€śItâ€™s either always been equal to or significantly greater than Florida Radiance in terms of sweetness and overall flavor,â€ť he said.
Rating even higher in flavor is Florida Sensation, which was released earlier this year, but wonâ€™t be available in commercial quantities until fall 2014. The university is now looking to negotiate with parties interested in licensing and growing the variety.
â€śProbably the thing that distinguishes Florida Sensation the most is its fruit quality,â€ť Whitaker said. â€śIt has good, consistent sugar levels and very consistently good flavor.â€ť
Its superior taste has been confirmed in numerous consumer test panels, sensory expert panels, grower trials and chemical analyses.
Sensation also matches or exceeds Radiance in consistent, large fruit size, an important trait for growers.
And while Winterstarâ€™s fruit size is not as consistent, it and Florida Sensation are Floridaâ€™s earliest producing varieties.
â€śEarliness is really important to the growers because they get their highest prices early in the season,â€ť Whitaker said.