White Strawberries Are on Grocery Shelves in Florida: What Are They?
These naturally white, pink-tinted hybrid strawberries have pineapple flavor notes.
Prepare to confuse your tastebuds. It's common to see cartons of red strawberries at the grocery store, but not so much a white strawberry. Recently, shoppers found these "albino" berries being sold at select Aldi locations in Florida and promptly shared the news on social media and tagged their posts with #pineberries. Unknown to most of the U.S., the pineberry (aka hula berry) looks like a smaller, underripe strawberry that's white or slightly pink with little red seeds. The real kicker, though, is its flavor. It tastes and looks like a strawberry, but with subtle notes of pineapple. That's a food mash-up we can get behind! No, it's not related to the pineapple, but that's just naturally how the flavor turned out.
What Is a Pineberry?
Here's a little strawberry history to get you acquainted with how we got to the pineberry. Red strawberries from Europe first made their debut in North America in the 17th century and were followed by white strawberries from South America about 100 years later. The white strawberry is female and harder to grow because it needs red strawberries and bees to continue pollinating. That's how the male, self-pollinating red strawberries became the strawberry we find in our grocery stores today; they simply are easier to grow in large quantities. About 20 years ago, Dutch breeder Hans de Jonghare developed the pineberry through crossbreeding the red and white varieties, and about five years ago, pineberries started popping up on U.S. shelves. Nutritionally, the pineberry packs healthy vitamin A and vitamin C, similar to the red berries.
According to Robert Schueller, director of public relations at Melissa's Produce, the company usually imports pineberries from Holland for about 5-6 weeks between April and June. He also points out they tend to be more expensive for consumers. Last year, Melissa's found pineberries cost approximately $4.99 for a 6-ounce clamshell of berries. (Traditional red strawberries go for about $2.99 per pound.)
How to Grow Pineberries
Unless you live in Florida or near select specialty grocery stores (usually in big cities like New York or Los Angeles), it's going to be tough to find these extraordinary berries in the produce section. The next best way to get a taste is to grow your own. That is if you live in the USDA hardiness zones 4-8. While fairly easy to grow on your own, there are a few things to note. Growing pineberries from seeds isn't an option since these are a hybrid plant and need to be cross-bred. Unlike traditional red varieties, the pineberry will grow only if strawberries are nearby to pollinate them. So when your white pineberries start to grow, it will be totally natural to see some red ones growing on the same plant. They'll also need slightly acidic soil (a pH of 5.5 to 6.5) with good drainage in order to thrive. If you're already growing strawberries in your garden, you're in luck. All you have to do is find a pineberry plant or two to buy and intersperse them within your red varieties.
Come April, check your local grocery stores and berry grower sites such as Wish Farms to see if they're stocking pineberries. Like regular strawberries, they won't continue to ripen after picking, so enjoy them right out of the carton or in your favorite strawberry recipes within five days of purchase.