If you’re a fan of strawberries and pineapples, then you’re going to love this fragrant fruit that’s a bit of both and a lot of each. The pineberry, Fragaria x ananassa, is a non-GMO/GE female strawberry cultivar with a dominant white color (and sometimes, a faint yellowish or pinkish tinge), red polka dots embedded in the skin and yellow seeds on the inside. Pineberries are not widely available in grocery stores or other retail outlets, but just like the red strawberry cousins, these fruits are easy to grow in your own garden.
Pineberries are safe to eat, despite what a lot of people may believe. The species is not a product of genetic engineering, but rather from natural crossbreeding techniques. The first pineberry in existence came from a 1750 crossbreed of white strawberries from South America (Fragaria chiloensis) and red strawberries from North America (Fragaria virginiana). A breeder based in the Netherlands, Hans de Jongh developed a more yielding natural crossbreeding technique in the early 90s, and the delicious fruits been thriving ever since.
However, mass production of pineberries isn’t a feasible process. This cultivar needs cross-pollination to bear fruits. The pineberry is a female cultivar, and it requires male pollen grains to cross with. Due to this requirement, it’s much easier for breeders to grow red strawberries that can self-pollinate. The solution to this is to plant strawberries nearby to cross-pollinate with the pineberries, by the action of mostly insects and wind. This process doesn’t affect the flavor of the fruits and it has been shown to increase yield and lengthen the growing season.
Nutritional value of pineberries
Pineberries are just as nutritious as strawberries. The crossbreed nature is a plus on the nutritional value of this fruit. Rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, and natural antioxidants, this fruit can be used in a variety of ways in our diet to obtain all the wonderful health benefits it offers.
Pineberries are rich in vitamin C, so this fruit can deliver antioxidants to support the immune system and help reduce the risk chronic disease. In this respect, pineberries can help to repair body tissues and prevent the occurrence of scurvy (bleeding gums or opening of healed wounds).
Pineberries contain fiber, and several bodily functions and processes are aided by the abundance of natural fiber. The recommended dietary intake for fiber on a daily basis should be about 25 to 30 grams, but most adults in the U.S. are merely getting only 15 grams on average every day. Fiber aids the body’s digestive process and eases bowel movement. Soluble fiber can also help to reduce cholesterol. Fibrous foods such as fruits can be helpful for weight loss because they keep you feeling full for longer periods of time, helping to cut down on calorie intake.
Pineberries are rich in vitamin A (as beta-carotene), a nutrient necessary for proper vision, combating cell damage, fertility, hair, teeth and skin maintenance, and fortifying the immune system.
Pineberries are rich in vitamin folic acid, a vitamin that helps prevent birth defects in newborns. Neural Tube Defects occur when the spinal cord of a fetus fails to close properly. The most common of these defects are spina bifida and anencephaly. Consumption of folic acid during pregnancy help to reduce the risks of NTDs by 70%.
Pineberries are a great addition to a healthy diet. You can eat them raw or incorporated into juices, fruit salads, smoothies, pies, and several other dishes and beverages.
Growing your own pineberries
Pineberries first became commercially available in the US in 2012, but they are still difficult to find in retail outlets. The reality is that they have a really short shelf life of 1-2 days, with refridgeration only slightly increasing its shelf life. Understandably, grocery stores aren’t keen sell something so perishable. They are best eaten immediately upon harvesting or purchase. So, why not just grow yours so you can harvest and eats as desired?
Pineberries are easy to grow, but you have to grow a variety of self-pollinating strawberries nearby since they can’t pollinate on their own. They thrive best in the USDA hardiness zone 4-8 and are best planted with strawberry starts and not seeds. You can plant the tiny starts in pots or soil patches.
To obtain a pH soil level of 5.5 to 6.5 in the pots, a great combination of soil types goes as follows, according to tips from Natural Living Ideas:
- 10 parts sterile potting soil
- 10 parts peat moss
- 8 parts perlite
- 4 parts compost
- 1 part sand
Make sufficient drainages in the pots, keeping in mind that the plants will also require consistent moisture. Place the pots in positions where 6 hours of direct sunlight or 8-10 hours bright indirect light will get to the plant.
To plant in patches, choose a soil location where you haven’t previously planted any strong-flavored plants such as peppers, onions, tomatoes, and others. Weed the area thoroughly and till small ridges or double beds on the site. Add a strong organic compost to the patches. Dig shallow holes 12 inches apart and bury your pineberries in them, taking care not to bury the crowns below soil level. The leaves should be able to get adequate sunlight for photosynthesis.
Gently pat down the soil and water generously. Ensure that you have chosen a location where they’ll get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight or 8-10 hours bright indirect light daily.
Water the plants regularly and add small amounts of a strong NPK fertilizer every 3-4 weeks. Weed the plants regularly, being extra careful not to damage the plants themselves. It’s best to use biological methods to get rid of pests and weeds, rather than chemicals. It’s important to note that pineberries are susceptible to diseases such as crown rot, leaf spot, scorch, root rots, fruit rots, gray mold, and viruses.
The plants are ready for harvesting when they’ve begun to take on a pinkish or yellowish blush.