For a strawberry-lover there’s nothing better than picking that sweet, dark red piece of fruit right off the bush and popping it into your mouth. Well, maybe strawberries and cream would be nice, too. And then there’s strawberry jam slathered on a nice piece of buttered toast. Wait: How about a big slice of strawberry pie?
Just when you think it can’t get any better for your strawberry desserts, there’s new, exciting research on your favorite fruit. Scientists are breeding the better berry. So far these super-good strawberries appear to have more healthful antioxidants and a sweeter flavor than your standard red berry of the same name in grocery stores. Another advantage of their process is that it involves natural breeding to develop new varieties and does not produce “genetically modified,” or GMO, strawberries, avoiding this controversial technique.
According to a report in the ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, strawberries are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and flavonoids, a rich source of antioxidants. Numerous studies have linked eating lots of fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants to lower risk of cancer and heart disease. So with this in mind, a research team in Italy decided to see if it could create even more healthful berries that taste even better.
For their study, the researchers bred wild strawberries with a commercial variety. “We already released a new variety (Romina) with increased high nutritional quality of the fruit in comparison with other varieties on the market (e.g. Elsanta),” said Bruno Mezzetti, who headed the team of scientists. “But then by crossing wild strawberries with cultivated genotypes we were able to develop new genotypes with a further higher content of antioxidants that looked pleasing to the eye and tasted quite sweet.” The new plants also produced a good yield of berries, he added.
Overall, the researchers worked with 20 kinds of strawberries they created and their “parents,” checking them for weight, yield, sugar content, acidity and antioxidant content. Based on their analysis, they concluded that a full-scale breeding program can produce new strawberry varieties that are superior to current commercial crops.
Mezzetti says the group’s ultimate aim is to produce these “super-good” strawberries that will be sold commercially. First, they will test the berries further in the lab and then, possibly, with human volunteers to determine even more definitively if the fruit has added health benefits and is even tastier than current varieties.
“Use of Wild Genotypes in Breeding Program Increases Strawberry Fruit Sensorial and