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Do White Strawberries That Taste Like Pineapples Exist?

White strawberries that taste like pineapple aren’t a hoax—they’re just a product of savvy advertising.

  • Published 24 March 2016

Claim

A white strawberry that tastes like pineapple is available in certain markets.

Collected via Twitter, March 2016

Rating

Origin

Stories about “pineberries” seem to circulate periodically every year, along with a photo of white strawberries with red seeds and claims that they don’t taste like strawberries, but like pineapples:

These Little Guys May Look Like Strawberries — But They Taste Like Something Else Entirely : https://t.co/oriCjAwVIy

The pineberry is real, although they aren’t crosses between pineapples and strawberries (despite some misleading headlines to that effect). The pineberry first emerged, or re-emerged, in 2010 (on 1 April, as a matter of fact, leading some cynics to conclude that they were an elaborate hoax) in United Kingdom markets.

However, while they weren’t a hoax, neither were they a new and exciting crossbreed of strawberry and pineapple. Also, while they weren’t a lost variety miraculously resurrected by enterprising scientists, similar berries might have been around since the 18th century (and other white strawberry varieties have existed for far longer):

In fact, the specific strawberry variety whose genetics contribute to the striking appearance of the pineberry was “rescued” by a group of Dutch farmers. They discovered the source material in France. They did not find and rescue the pineberry from extinction in the wilds of Chile, as some have claimed. After six years of plant selection and cultivation, the plant vigor and quality of the pineberry plants was improved, and the decision to begin growing them for commercial production was made.

The fruit produced by pineberry plants is very aromatic and has flavor that most say is reminiscent of pineapple while retaining the texture and feel of a strawberry. The pineberry, or pineapple strawberry, is more of a novelty at present. They are produced on a very small scale in Europe and Belize and are not very profitable due to the small size of the pineberries (large pineberries are less than an inch [2.54 cm] big) and the low yield of pineberry plants….

They didn’t seem to taste much like pineapple, though, according to a 2010 piece in the Guardian:

Weekend’s food editor, Bob Granleese, never one to hold back, was not a fan: “It smells like a strawberry.” Bite. “It tastes like … water.” Pause. “With sweetener in it.” Pause. “It’s disgusting.” I went next, immediately pulling a lemon sucking face at the sharpness of the albino fruit which I can only describe as “nippy”. Jay Rayner was similarly unimpressed: “Basically, it’s an unripe strawberry. Just because it can be sold doesn’t mean it should”. And devoted food lover Rachel Dixon was quite taken aback: “What the hell? It’s a raspberry. No. Strawberry.” Nibble. “Um.” Pause. Grimace. “Whoa”. Pause. “So it’s some kind of freakish strawberry that doesn’t taste very nice.” Not much endorsement so far.

Pineberries’ growing season is about five weeks long, which further limits their commercial viability. However, if you feel a real need for a pineberry but aren’t anywhere near a market that carries them, you can order them online or grow your own.

White strawberries that taste like pineapple aren't a hoax—they're just a product of savvy advertising.

The real reason white strawberries are so expensive

Chomping down on sweet, juicy strawberries is one of those simple pleasures in life (though you might want to soak them in salt water first). June is peak strawberry season for most of the U.S., so summer is officially even better (via Epicurious). But there’s a very special type of strawberry that you’re unlikely to find anywhere in the country — the white strawberry.

If you’ve never tried or even heard of a white strawberry, you’re not alone. White strawberries are strawberries with white flesh (hence the name), red seeds, and usually some pink patches. They are bred to be bigger, softer, and sweeter than the average strawberry (via Spoon University). This fruit shouldn’t be confused with pineerries, which are a distinct variety of strawberry that is also white in color (via StrawberryPlants.org).

The white strawberry is mainly found in Japan, where it’s a fixture within the luxury fruit market. There are several varieties of the special fruit in the Asian country, but the most popular type is the White Jewel, or Shiroi Houseki, which is the rarest and most expensive among them all.

The mastermind behind the White Jewel is Yasuhito Teshima, who said he spent years cross-breeding different kinds of strawberries and improving his growing technique — resulting in a sizable strawberry that’s white on the inside and the outside (via Oddity Central).

Why white strawberries are so expensive

Teshima claims that though this particular type has some competition from the other varieties of white strawberries grown in Japan, it’s really not much of a contest. The White Jewel is significantly larger and whiter than any other breed, he says. And his farm in the Saga Prefecture in Japan is apparently the only place in the world that produces the one-of-kind luxury strawberry.

The white color of the strawberry’s flesh is achieved by cutting down sunlight exposure, which in turn reduces anthocyanin levels. This naturally-occurring pigment is what gives fruits and vegetables their hue. However, Teshima is still working on developing his technique. Even after his many years of conducting experiments on strawberries, only 10 percent of them turn out white, and only a few of these are completely pale. The rest have red or pink patches, or have a milky pink color. When a White Jewel is fully developed, it won’t turn red, even under direct sunlight.

White Jewel strawberries have a heftier price tag on them when compared to conventional red strawberries because of a few different factors: the years spent breeding them, their low yield rate, the labor-intensive growing process, and space. Even though these strawberries are not gigantic, the farm needs to allot a lot of space for them to develop properly.

The price of white strawberries

The White Jewel is more pricey than a regular red strawberry. Just one (one!) costs $10! In contrast, a whole 16-ounce pack of organic red strawberries might cost around $6. A small pack of White Jewels is priced at $40, which would burn a hole in anyone’s wallet.

What do white strawberries actually taste like? Teshima said the flavor is something deep that doesn’t have a huge impact at first, but delivers a “slight mysterious feeling” that is “really, really tasty” once you understand it. Others have described white strawberries as sweet-smelling with soft skin. Once you bite into one, the taste is similar to fresh pineapple at first. This tropical flavor apparently goes away after a few seconds and then turns sweet like candy but not in an overpowering way. The strawberry’s natural sugars don’t linger in your mouth and instead leaves a fresh finish.

Because the flavor of the White Jewel is so unique and delicious, and the fruit is very expensive, these white strawberries are purchased to give as gifts for special occasions instead of everyday snacking. Surprisingly, this white strawberry is not the costliest type of strawberry. That title goes to the Kokota breed, a red strawberry that is priced at $22 for just a single berry.

If you've never tried or even heard of a white strawberry, you're not alone. White strawberries are strawberries with white flesh (hence the name), red seeds, and usually some pink patches. They are bred to be bigger, softer, and sweeter than the average strawberry (via Spoon University).