|California produces 88 per
cent of the strawberries Americans eat. Total production has grown from
350,000 tons in 1986 to more than 900,000 today.
Like apples, strawberries come in thousands of varieties, although few
people can name them. All date back to a chance romance between two
wild plants in a Dutch garden around 250 years ago. One was Chilean
– secreted back to Europe on a French exploration vessel. The
other came from the Virginia woods.
The result was a more vigorous plant bearing larger berries. Strawberry
breeding was born.
Many of the popular varieties grown in home and commercial gardens were
created in a 100-year-old strawberry breeding program at the USDA's Genetic
Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland.
These varieties include Earliglow, Tribute, Northeaster, Blakemore and Steelmaster .
Earliglow, which was released
in 1975, set a new flavor standard for strawberries. The berry is
perfect for fresh eating, bite-sized and very sweet. High-yielding and
very disease resistant, Earliglow
is an excellent choice for beginners and home gardeners.
Tribute, released in 1981,
produces fruit multiple times during the growing season. This variety
is also easy to grow, yielding large amounts of firm fruit in the
spring, summer and fall.
released in 1994, is prized for its high-yielding large, beautiful,
aromatic fruit. The berries ripen early and freeze well. Northeaster is
an ideal garden variety, growing well in light or heavy soils.
released in 1931, was the first variety firm enough for shipping,
making it possible for consumers all over the country to enjoy fresh
The release of Steelmaster in
1954 saved the early strawberry industry from the devastating,
root-rot disease called red stele.
Strawberries are complicated little plants. They produce seeds,
but also reproduce vegetatively – stretching out tendrils to
create genetically identical "daughters." One plant can create 25
million such clones in four year. And each piece of mature fruit can
hold as many as 200 genetically-unique seeds
Humans have two sets of each chromosome. Strawberries have eight.
"Although vilified by locavores, food travelling
long distances by truck
doesn't necessarily result in more greenhouse gases. On a per-pound
basis, an 18-wheeler emits one-fifteenth the carbon dioxide of a
delivery van heading to a local farmers' market. The latest studies
reveal the distance food travels by truck matters less than how that
food was produced. The second biggest energy-hog in the system is the
consumer. How many people across North America will drive to grocery
stores to buy these strawberries, chuck them in the fridge and a week
later throw them out uneaten?" Toronto
Agricultural Research Service,
Topsy Turvy Strawberry