- Today strawberries are grown in every U.S. state and every Canadian province. California, Florida and Oregon are the main strawberry producing states. California produces 80% of the nation’s strawberries, providing almost a year-round supply.
- Oregon strawberries are known worldwide for their exceptional taste, deep color and intense sweetness due to Oregon’s ideal growing conditions – a long mild spring, and an early summer, with a lot of rainfall and warm sunny days and cool nights. Strawberry season in Oregon only lasts three to four weeks making them difficult to ship long distances, therefore Oregon supplies to a niche market with the majority of the berries produced for processing.
- Strawberries are by far the largest volume berry with a wide range of applications, such as frozen, juice concentrate, purée and dried products.
- Strawberries are not really berries or fruit, but are instead the enlarged receptacle of the flower.
- Strawberries are harvested and mainly sorted in the field, separating fresh market quality from processing grade.
- China entered the strawberry market several years ago and has had a significant impact on the process fruit industry especially for frozen fruit and juice concentrate.
- Strawberries are low in calorie and low fat. Plus, they are high in vitamin C, fiber, folic acid and potassium.
The Strawberry Patch
- Strawberries grow best in moisture retaining soil or when irrigated frequently, they have low fertilizer requirements, and the plants are kept for one to four years before being replaced.
- The quality, flavor and vitamin content of the berries depend upon the climate where they are grown.
- The ideal growing climate for strawberries is one where the growing berries are exposed to warm, sunny days and cool night. In this type of climate the berry’s production of sugar and vitamin C are maximized.
- Strawberries initiate their flower buds in the fall, and the following season’s berries develop from food stored in the plants. After the flowers bloom, it usually takes about one month before the strawberries are ripe.
- Risk factors associated with producing strawberries: Extreme temperatures, droughts and excessive rain increase diseases and can interfere with pollination, fruit set, and harvest.
- Once berries ripen they must be picked immediately. Those intended for fresh market must be sold before they are picked to avoid spoilage.
- U.S. strawberry growers are production-oriented rather than market-oriented, unlike growers in most other countries. Although greenhouse technology for producing ‘off-season’ vegetable crops is available, strawberry growers in the U.S. have not yet adopted these techniques to increase ‘off-season’ production.
Hand-Picked and Packed
- Proper harvesting of commercial strawberries is crucial in maintaining berry quality. All strawberries are picked, sorted and packed by hand in the field. The berries do not ripen after picking.
- Strawberries that are produced for processing are gently washed, sorted and quickly frozen after picking to ensure that their flavor and appearing are retained.
- In California strawberry plants are replaced annually with a nursery crop. Throughout the harvest season strawberry plants continuously produce new fruit and need to be harvested every three days during the peak of season.