Strawberries just got tastier

By PATRICK O'SULLIVAN


Strawberries have reached a new taste-bud high with the success of new variety Albion at Scott's Strawberry Farm in Havelock North.

Owner Billy Scott said he was thrilled with Albion, which had an intense flavour.

He felt confident it would be as popular in New Zealand as it had been overseas.

But the strawberry revolution won't be complete, with the new variety not as reliable as industry-stalwart variety Camarosa.

"There are a lot of varieties out there but a lot of people grow Camarosa because it is such a good hardy variant - when the weather gets cooler it still produces," he said.

"Polamar and Albion are new boys on the block. The Polamar is in a bit of a trial phase - it is very juicy and like a traditional old-style berry.

'I have Pajaro as well. It is sort of dying out. It is a very good variety but commercially it is not as good as the Camarosa.

"You have to be able to make money out of them. This year is a good example - because of the cool conditions, Albion and Pajaro are not performing like Camarosa does.

"Camarosa is a proven commercial variety. It is an all-rounder but to the public it is not as good.

"Don't get me wrong - it is still a very nice strawberry but once you've tried these other ones ..."

Hawke's Day Today reporter Amy Shanks agreed after a taste test.

"Even a poor Albion is better than a great Camarosa," she said.

Despite being a fan of the new varieties, about half of Scott's Strawberry Farm is still planted in Camarosa.

"Mainly because you have to have the balance throughout your property. In the cooler years, the other varieties don't always produce but you can rely on Camarosa. It is the mainstay berry in New Zealand."

He sells his fruit mainly through gate sales (with all varieties the same price), greengrocers, the Hawke's Bay Farmers' Market and by supplying restaurants directly - including those owned by TV chef Al Brown.

Mr Scott's parents started the Te Aute Rd orchard about 50 years ago. He was an orchardist himself before taking the reins from his parents 10 years ago.

"I decided to cater to the restaurant trade a bit more than they did and I deal with a lot of privateers in Wellington - shops not associated with Progressive or Foodstuffs.

"You have a more discerning buyer and can command a better margin."

Hawke's Bay has five main growers. The largest is The Strawberry Farm in Pakowhai Rd, Hastings.

Industry organisation Strawberry Growers New Zealand obtains new varieties from California and they are propagated through licensed nurseries. Most are situated in Katikati, yet most New Zealand commercial strawberry production is in Auckland - mainly Camarosa.

"If you want something that's big and looks nice and red - that's what Camarosa has. That's why it is commercially grown so much: it is quite a firm berry, easy to handle, big, looks great and 90 per cent of the time eats good."

Despite their appeal, the new varieties were unlikely to grow the New Zealand strawberry market, he said.

"I think the New Zealand market is just about saturated. When the buying public go into the supermarket there are a lot of different fruits that eat quite nicely. Strawberries have it pretty good in October/November but then you have cherries, apricots and all those summerfruits coming into season."

It was a mystery to him why there was no demarcation of varieties by retailers: "The new varieties are just so beautiful."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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