In season: sweet, sweet strawberries
The winter strawberry season is in full swing. But do you know exactly what goes into creating those sweet and juicy Australian strawberries you see in our supermarkets?
Every strawberry season, researchers from the Australian Strawberry Breeding Program trial, taste and assess thousands of new varieties of strawberry developed through natural breeding to identify the best tasting and yielding fruit for Australia.
Funded by Hort Innovation – the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australia’s horticulture industry – in partnership with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the program supports the Australian strawberry industry by providing growers with access to improved, locally adapted superior varieties.
The current program began in 2018 and continues the work of previous research which saw the commercialisation of 12 new varieties in recent years.
Last year, more than 80 percent of strawberry plants grown commercially in Queensland were varieties developed by the program, so if you buy a punnet of Australian-grown strawberries from the supermarket tomorrow, you’ll be buying an Aussie product that’s been perfected for both our climate and our tastebuds.
“We’ve started screening our strawberries for the presence of aromatic compounds that contribute to that sweet peach flavour in strawberries and the presence of genes that contribute to this,” says strawberry breeder Dr Jodi Neal.
“We’re also producing white and pale strawberries – like strawberries and cream. We will soon be looking for a commercialisation partner for these varieties. The varieties are pure white on the inside and taste a bit like pineapples. We’re also working on a new darker variety that’s the colour of red wine.”
Not only do ripe, in-season strawberries taste delicious, they’re good for your health, too. According to Hort Innovation Accredited Dietitian Jemma O’Hanlon, strawberries are sweet and juicy little nutritional powerhouses.
“They contain a whopping 170 percent of our daily intake of vitamin C, which supports our immunity as well as enriching our skin from within,” she says. “Strawberries also contain folate, potassium and powerful antioxidants to fight off free radical damage.”
Strawbs are also very low in calories, so they make the perfect snack for anyone who loves a sweet treat but wants to watch their weight. They’re perfect for eating straight from the punnet, and the gut-loving fibre in the fruit will keep you feeling fuller for longer.