In January 2017, I was visiting commercial and research greenhouses in the Netherlands and Germany prior to the start of IPM Essen. At one of them, a Dutch greenhouse research institution, I had the chance to see hydroponic strawberry production for the first time. It was gray, rainy and generally dreary outside, so the tiny pops of red dotting the greenhouse were a welcome sight.
Imagine my excitement when I was told that I would be allowed to sample the fruits! Besides being a little hungry before lunch, I was also looking forward to seeing what a “January-bearing strawberry” (in contrast to the June-bearing or ever-bearing strawberries we eat during the spring and summer here in Ohio) was like. I had never sampled a fresh strawberry mere days after my winter birthday, and was delighted by the idea of local, greenhouse-grown strawberries gracing the tables during the holidays. The tasty treat didn’t disappoint, and the sweet, ripe berry practically melted in my mouth.
But growing strawberries in a greenhouse is no easy feat and not many people are producing them, as shown by current statistics. According to the California Strawberry Commission, 97 percent of the strawberries that are sold in U.S. stores are grown in the fields of California, Florida or Mexico. Not many North American greenhouse growers have ventured into strawberry growing, unlike their berry-growing counterparts in Europe and Asia, which means that locally grown strawberries can be hard to find, even during their normal growing season. During the off-season, finding berries that were grown close to the store is a near-impossible feat.
In this month’s cover story, Produce Grower assistant editor Chris Manning delves into the history of greenhouse-grown strawberries, highlights university research being conducted and talks to growers who have taken the plunge. Immerse yourself in the world of strawberries here.
Did you attend the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit back in October? If not — or even if you did — don’t miss associate editor Patrick Williams’ coverage of the event, including inspirational advice from a Broadway actor, a football superstar and PMA’s own Cathy Burns.
Lastly, as you prepare for 2019, check out Leslie Halleck’s predictions for produce trends in the coming year. Just don’t be surprised if you’re a little hungry after reading her column.
Happy holidays, and see you next year!
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