Rutgers Scarlet strawberries
PHOTOGRAPH BY ZOE SCHAEFFER

The Rutgers Scarlet: The New Strawberry Hybrid You Need To Know About

Breeders have developed a berry ready for the East Coast’s short summers and cold winters—but how does it taste?

June 26, 2015

Most likely, if you’ve had a fresh strawberry—whether bought from the store or grown locally—it’s been a variety that was designed to thrive in California. That’s because the state produces about 80 percent of this country’s most delicious red fruit year-round. Raised on the East Coast, though, long winters and shorter growing seasons can result in much smaller strawberry productions. 

So Rutgers University spent the past 15 years creating a varietal that yields a robust, juicy, uber-flavorful berry made especially for locavores at farmers’ markets and pick-your-own farm stands throughout the Northeast. The Rutgers Scarlet, as it’s being called, is expected to hit markets later this summer, and you know what? It’s freaking delicious. Isn’t that really the only reason to breed a new strawberry? Because they were created for small farmers who don’t need to ship them across the country, Rutgers didn’t have to worry about stability or shelf life and could instead concentrate on making a strawberry as lush, tart, and juicy as possible. Right now they’re only being grown by a handful of New Jersey farms, but if you’re nearby, they’re worth a visit. 

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According to professor Bill Hlubik, one of the project’s team leaders, the Rutgers Scarlet does very well when grown organically. “They have an open architecture that pushes fruit clusters out further from the base of the crown,” says Hlubik. “This provides for better air circulation, which should reduce some common disease issues as long as plants are properly watered.” Within the next few years, the varietal will start to expand to other East Coast states. And your strawberry rubarb pies will thank you.  

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