The strawberry is a small plant of the Rosaceae (Rose) family. All varieties of the strawberry plant belong to the Fragaria genus.
Strawberry plants can be planted in any garden soil. But the richer the soil, the larger the crop. The plant grows best in a cool, moist climate and does not do well in hot temperatures. Queensland winter strawberries are planted in March/April (Autumn) and start to produce fruit in May and will go on fruiting until into October with the right conditions.
The strawberry grows close to the ground on the stem in groups of three. The greenish white fruits turn to a rich red colour when they ripen. When the strawberry ripens, the petals of the flower fall off and all that remains is the calyx, a leafy substance shaped like a star. Not every flower produces fruit.
Strawberries are not really berries or fruit in the “botanical” sense (i.e., the end result of a fertilized plant ovum). A strawberry is actually an “aggregate fruit” — the “real” fruit are the objects we think of as the “strawberry seed” — properly called “achenes” — which are fruits in the same way that a raw sunflower seed with it’s tough shell is a fruit. The “berry” is actually an “enlarged receptacle” and is not reproductive material. As a result, strawberries must be picked at full ripeness, as they cannot not ripen once picked.
The strawberry plant has seeds on the outside skin rather than having an outer skin around the seed, as most berries do. They do not however, normally reproduce by seeds. When the fruit is developing, the plant sends out slender growths called runners. These look like strings. They grow on the ground and send out roots in the soil. The roots produce new plants which grow and bear fruit. Sometimes these plants are taken from the soil and replanted to start a new plantation of strawberry plants.
Suncoast Delight: A relatively recent commercial variety from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Breeding Program (QDAF), Suncoast Delight produces large conical shaped fruit. During colder periods the fruit can hold white shoulders, however if left too long on the plant, the colour can turn quite dark. Colour is generally red to deep warm red. Easily bruised so should be handled carefully during harvest.
Red Rhapsody: Also from the local QDAF breeding program, Red Rhapsody became available to growers to trial in the 2015 season, and has proven popular in southern Queensland operations since then. Its performance indicates it’s potential to be a prominent early season variety. The variety consistently shows to be a moderately early producer of extra-large sized, glossy dark red fruit. The fruit itself has been large and conical with a pleasant flavour. Taste tests conducted at past strawberry industry field days rates Red Rhapsody similar to Florida Fortuna. At times, white shoulders contrasting against dark red skin are noted and are likely to relate to weather conditions.
Sundrench: The QDAF selection Sundrench has sparked grower interest mainly due to its early production of large sized fruit and high yield potential. Trials will continue to assess Sundrench, as its dark skin colour and limited weather tolerance may limit its commercial viability. Berries can be soft and juicy, although care is needed when handling.
Parisienne Kiss: Another QDAF selection, Parisienne Kiss has shown some promise within Research Farm plots and first year on farm trials, due to its moderately high production of very large, red glossy fruit, the majority of which are a broad-conical shape with good flavour. Fruit has soft flesh and are susceptible to rain.
Festival: Festival is a tropical short day variety from the University of Florida breeding program. Fruit production commences relatively early and continues throughout the season. Flesh is bright red with good flavour. Fruit are typically firm, deep red, attractive and conical shape. Fruit are also well displayed on long stems, and therefore easily harvested. A few small sizes may occur, especially towards the tail end of the season. Festival produces very few misshapen or unmarketable fruit and therefore is an easy variety to pack. Performs well under a range of weather conditions and has again shown good resistance to rain
Florida Fortuna: A variety from the University of Florida, Florida Fortuna has gained popularity amongst growers due to its large aromatic fruit and high, steady production. Fruit is firm yet juicy, colour is glossy, bright to dark red with a warm red interior and smooth appearance. Fruit are mostly conical with some early season fruit being more elongated. Extreme weather conditions can cause misshapen fruit, which often resolves itself when conditions improve.