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SHERIDAN — Big, bright red strawberries can break your heart. For durability they are often picked on the firmer, green side, meaning they will redden, but not ripen, after picking. So they fall short on taste. This is the strawberry version of the tomato problem: pretty fruit, underflavored.
The tomato problem was solved in part by the grape tomato, which delivers concentrated flavor in a durable little package. The goal is similar for strawberries: Breeders are working on a berry that’s both fit for supermarket shipping and succulently sweet. Vance Whitaker, PhD, a strawberry breeder at the University of Florida, has consumers taste-testing varieties to identify the genetic recipe for a better berry. They have made a lot of progress on the shipability side and are focusing now on flavor.
Meanwhile, The North Carolina Strawberry Project, in a partnership with N.C. State University researchers and chefs at Johnson and Wales University are working to pinpoint the best qualities in the top 20 strawberry breeds in order to find the “perfect” breed.
For now we must reconcile ourselves to the fleeting nature of the local strawberry season and dive in while they are at their peak.
One last thought: it is probably a good idea to choose organic berries when possible. Strawberries rank high on “The Dirty Dozen,” The Environmental Working Group’s list of fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residues. (Source: Cooking Light)