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Better tasting strawberry makes debut

For years, many New Jersey farmers have been growing strawberry plants bred for conditions in California. The plants produced fruit that could withstand being shipped across the country but were not well suited for cold Northeast winters. Another drawback was their taste.

“In developing something that will ship well, sometimes you have a little loss of flavor,'’ said Bill Hlubik, professor and agricultural agent for Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

“Our goal was to develop a sweet and juicy Jersey strawberry with exceptional flavor that would encourage more people to search it out and buy local,’’ Hlubik said. He was part of a team of researchers that included a Rutgers food scientist, plant biologist and agricultural agents who worked together to develop and release the new "Rutgers Scarlet" strawberry.

The Rutgers Scarlet strawberry plant recently hit the market for both home gardeners and commercial growers. The new plant is being grown on test plots at more than a dozen farms around the state and will be available for sale again to the public during an August 15 open house at the EARTH Center in South Brunswick, home to the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County.

The new strawberry is the latest in a long list of plant varieties including tomatoes, asparagus and squash that the NJAES has developed to draw more customers to local markets and pick-your-own farms. The experiment station works closely with New Jersey farmers to develop plants as part of its mission to share Rutgers’ research with the public.

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