Jul 18, 2019 | Updated: 10:03 AM EDT

Pineberries: The Long Lost Sibling of the Strawberry Returns Thanks to Selective Breeding

May 15, 2019 10:48 AM EDT


Sometime in the year 1650, a seafarer brought the first tiny red strawberries from North America to Europe-known then as red scarlets. About a century later, another European seaman brought home the first white strawberries from South America. It was around that time in 1750, that the two strawberry types were crossbreed and created the mother of all modern strawberries: Fragaria Ananassa.

Her seedlings came in two varieties: red and white. The white berries were female and came to be known as pineberries, while the red berries were male and came to be known as strawberries. Because the red strawberries were self-pollinating and made higher yields, they became the prevailing marketable berry, while pineberries virtually vanished from the fruit world.

However, they are making a come back. Pineberries have only become popular within the last 20 years, after Dutch breeder Hans de Jongh created an original variety called "Natural Albino," albeit, through selective breeding and not genetic alteration. The delicate berries have a pale whitish pink flesh with red seeds, the opposite of the traditional red strawberries with yellow seeds. Their flavor is supposedly a cross between red strawberries and pineapple. Rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and antioxidants, some say pineberries are more nutritious and even tastier than regular strawberries.

Nearly a decade after their introduction, the British grocery store chain Waitrose just announced the berries are back by popular demand. As for their smaller yields and short-shelf life, you'll be hard pressed to find pineberries in most US supermarkets, apart from a few specialty grocers in New York. But we may be in luck, come to find out, they're relatively easy to grow.

Here are some tips for growing pineberries from NaturalLivingIdeas.com:

Growing pineberries is very similar to growing strawberries, except they won't grow on their own. Pineberries need strawberries nearby to pollinate them. Interspersing pineberries with a large variety of red strawberries will ensure your pineberries grow, as well as lengthen the season for your strawberries. Pineberries do well in USDA hardiness zones 4-8, throughout most of the United States, and can be grown in pots indoors to protect against extreme weather. However, they require good drainage, to remain moist at all times.

Use a good quality soil mix intended for strawberries, or make your own with:

  • 10 parts sterile potting soil
  • 10 parts peat moss
  • 8 parts perlite
  • 4 parts compost
  • 1 part sand

Being woodland plants, pineberries prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. You should position your pots or patch where they will get six hours of direct sunlight or 8-10 of bright, indirect light. Space the plants about one-foot apart from one another to make room for runners and feed them with liquid fertilizer throughout the summer. Lastly, harvest when the berries become round and pale pink.

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