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Winter Berries – Do We Need Them?

December 30, 2011

One of the very last guest blogs of the year is bought to you from Berry Buddies

Berry Berries

Berries were traditionally a seasonal treat in the UK. This season was defined by the 4-6 week availability of strawberries, mainly through the month of June. Improved growing techniques, new varieties and modern technology mean that UK strawberries are now on the shelves 40+ weeks of the year. It is even possible to have fresh berries grown in the UK available all the way through the winter. However this would involve a significant amount of supplementary heat and light, rendering the cost of production too high for consumers to afford the berries.

Today’s culture means that the average shopper expects to be able to find berries twelve months of the year. This desire is mostly satisfied by imported fruit. Sceptics will say that berries imported over the winter period lack the flavour of their homegrown counterparts. Indeed it would be true to say that the length of time in transport is longer than for UK production. However the advent and improvement of cool chain logistics has meant that the freshness of imported winter berries is now far greater than it was in the past.

So from where do these berries emanate? The answer is far and wide but some countries dominate depending on the type of berry. Winter strawberries are often grown in Spain where berry quality has improved dramatically in recent times and excellent transport links mean that the time between picking and consumption is now minimised. Look out for improved tasting Spanish strawberries such as San Andreas ( and Sabrosa. You will also see strawberries from Egypt. Raspberries also mainly arrive on these shores from Spain. Just five years, arrivals were dominated by the variety Glen Lyon. This is still around but there are now also many other types that offer improved eating quality, not least Erika,

There has been a very significant surge in the consumption of blueberries in recent times. The natural shelf-life of a blueberry fruit is greater than that of other soft fruits, meaning that shipping around the world is facilitated. Winter blueberries are most often seen from South American countries such as Chile and Argentina. The production of blueberries is also on the increase in Spain and these berries can be found later in the winter time.

A major success in winter berries has been blackberries. In fact, it is often stated that imported blackberries are more flavoursome than the home produced types. The majority of imported blackberries hail from central Mexico. A mind boggling 20.000 acres of blackberries are produced in this area, almost every one of them being the variety Tupy. This variety has higher levels of sweetness than most of the berries grown in the UK, but is not perfect as it can have a background of a bitter after taste. However the UK blackberry market has seen tremendous growth during the winter months based on this cultivar. There is a lot of work now taking place to develop better eating types for these particular months.

In these times of 24 hour supermarkets and the expectation that berries will be available 52 weeks of the year, it is vital that better tasting berries are developed to meet consumers’ demands in the winter months.

Rest assured, this work is taking place with the aim of having super tasting berries 12 months of the year.

Thanks once again to Berry Buddies !

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