New British strawberry offers picnic season through November
It is the last week of the Wimbledon tennis tournament in London. Gambling is obviously what draws spectators in, but over the years the snacks have gained their own fame.
Strawberries and cream are a staple of the event: around 200,000 servings of sweet British red berries are eaten there each year. They all come from the same farm, which grows plants that produce fruit every June. But, a newcomer to the strawberry scene may soon be supplanting the summer staple.
This is because in a quiet country lane in the county of Kent, an area known as the Garden of England, a new variety of strawberries has been bred.
â€œWe called him Ace because he’s really good at everything we see in it. It has a very good juicy flavor. It has a fantastic fruit size and in fact it also gives a very high yield, â€said Adam Whitehouse, senior fruit breeder at NIAB, the UK’s largest horticultural research and development center.
He said that the Ace, which he helped cultivate, marks a significant change in strawberry production. Unlike other strawberry plants, which typically produce fruit from May through July, Ace gives berries until fall.
â€œThe eternal carriers, which allow us to pick fruit until October in the UK, came from a more recent breeding effort, actually from the United States in the 1970s. But they have always suffered. [from] lower quality. And so with Ace we now really have the quality of a June wearer in an always wearer, â€he said.
In preparation since 2015, the Ace has been bred with the palates of UK consumers in mind, with flavors rich in sugar, some acidity and a sweet, aromatic fragrance. But the needs of producers were also taken into account. As the plant grows, its leaves push upwards, while the fruit-bearing arms move towards the roots. Even more unique, the berries do not grow in clusters. On the contrary, they naturally space out, which makes harvesting much easier.
This offers potential relief for an industry that has been battered by a Brexit-induced labor shortage and new visa requirements for workers from mainland Europe.
â€œWe are now starting to hear about labor shortages across the country of 5 to 15%, which is a significant shortfall for most large companies,â€ said Nick Marston, president of the British Summer Fruits organization. The group represents the country’s red fruit producers.
â€œLast year we were able to recruit probably 10% of the total horticultural workforce. This year it turned out to be much more difficult. With the reopening of the hotel industry and construction, we find people who came to work on farms last year, the vast majority of them refuse them because they are now returning to their old jobs â€, a- he declared.
Marston added that the availability of easy-to-harvest plants and new technology could, over time, ease the pain of what is expected to be a long-term labor drought.
â€œGrowers have already done a lot to reduce the workload by growing in systems raised off the ground, so you don’t have to kneel down to pick berries anymore. We’ve probably already reduced the labor content per hour by about a third as an industry, â€he said.
Whitehouse said Ace’s easy harvest attributes could result in labor savings of $ 4,000 to $ 8,000 per 2.5 acres each year.
â€œLabor is one of the main costs of production. And therefore, being able to reduce selection costs and increase efficiency is a real change for the industry, â€he said.
The only question left: How quickly could the Ace land in a fruit basket near you? It will be distributed to growers later this year, meaning it is expected to reach UK consumers by 2023 at the latest. But American berry lovers who crave their bowl of British berries and cream may have to wait a little longer.