What Makes a Great Strawberry?
01 January 2017
We spoke to UK retailer M&S about the characteristics of different varieties, and about the outstanding UK strawberry crop this year.
At this moment, the UK berry crop is looking excellent. After a great start in March, the stores are now onto the outdoor strawberry crop, which is huge due to the recent hot weather.
New variety Malling Centenary is yielding enormous berries, some in excess of 95mm. The weather has also generated high sugar levels, adding to the quality of the fruit.
The larger berries are very striking in appearance, eaten whole as a fruit or sliced in a dessert. They are easier to pick but have a slightly lower yield, particularly with new varieties.
Consumer preference is usually for a sweet eating strawberry, therefore a high Brix measurement is favoured. This week M&S berries have hit up to a record 16% sugar levels, as opposed to a more typical 8-9%. Strawberries certainly are tasting great at the moment.
The fruit quality can of course change at any time, owing to its fragility. The downside of the warm weather is that there is not enough difference in temperature between day and night. This means that the strawberries cannot effectively "shut down" at night, allowing the plant to recover, which can affect the development of the sugars.
What does M&S look for in a great strawberry?
- Good flavour
- Attractive to look at with a nice bright colour
- Slight firmness to touch, in order to survive picking, packaging and transport
- Good shelf life
So far M&S is having an excellent season with very strong sales. This would normally reach a peak during Wimbledon Fortnight, which is very good for British strawberry sales. Already this year they have nearly hit the record target, well in advance.
In a few weeks' time you will be able to buy the Jubilee and Magnum varieties, grown in Kent and Norfolk. These both have a high level of sweetness, but also a slightly floral flavour. Being more difficult to grow, they form part of the M&S top tier range of products. Owing to their high quality, Jubilee strawberries have been served in the Royal Box at Wimbledon!