Singing praises of strawberry favourite
IT WAS bred for Queensland conditions and Queensland taste and, in the past year, Sunshine Coast growers have helped make the "Red Rhapsody'' one of the superstars of the Australian strawberry industry.
The Queensland consumer who walks into a fruit store this Summer will almost certainly be greeted by the fragrance of the "Albion'' strawberry or the "San Andreas'' - old favourites being grown in Stanthorpe right now which produce a large fruit with a sweet smell.
"You know when you walk into a shop full of Albion strawberries because they have a beautiful fragrance,'' says Brendon Hoyle, who grows the fruit on Ashbern Farms which operate both on the Sunshine Coast and Stanthorpe.
But it's the Red Rhapsody which has taken the strawberry world by storm in recent years.
The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries developed the strand over several years and actually owns the Plant Breeders Rights or the "PBR" - the horticultural equivalent of the copyright.
Jen Rowling, development Officer with Queensland Strawberry Growers, said the popularity of the Red Rhapsody soared this year after Sunshine Coast growers made it one of the dominant plant varieties in the planting season.
Consumers backed their judgment.
"It's been quite phenomenal'' Ms Rowlings said.
"This last season growers ordered bucket loads of them, and consumers seemed to love them.''
The Red Rhapsody, which began commercial life around 2015 is darker in colour, indicating not merely a ripeness but a higher nutritional value.
Ms Rowling said the Queensland consumer has quickly learned the colour has nothing to do with being over-ripe.
The plant also offers high yields, with its longer stems making the fruit easier to pick.
The fruit it produces is highly resistant to bruising meaning the berries get to consumers in good condition.
Mr Hoyle said while the Red Rhapsody was a major success, consumers may have to wait until next Winter growing season before the fruit is back in plentiful supply again.
But out at Stanthorpe there are plenty of choices to take their place over Summer.
Key strawberry plants in the Summer crop include the Albion and San Andreas, both of which have been around for many years and are grown not only in Queensland but strawberry regions in the south including Victoria.
Albion: Large, red fruit with one of the strongest fragrances of all the strawberry plants and readily available this Summer.
Suncoast Delight: Large conical shaped fruit, generally deep red in colour but easily bruised so needs to be handled carefully during harvest.
Red Rhapsody: Trialled in the 2015 season and has proven extremely popular in Queensland (largely Sunshine Coast). Extra large, glossy dark red fruit, conical shape with pleasant sweet flavour.
Sundrench: Still on trial but with strong grower interest. Large fruit from a plant with a high yield potential and dark in colour.
Parisienne Kiss: still or trial but promising. Red glossy fruit with broad-conical shape and good flavour. But the fruit has soft flesh susceptible to rain.
Festival: Festival, produced by the University of Florida breeding program, has been around a while. Produces a bright red, conical shaped fruit which grows on long stems and is easily harvested.
Florida Fortuna: Another from the University of Florida breeding program that's been around a while now grown in smaller qualities. Large aromatic fruit and with firm juicy, colour with a glossy skin which is bright to dark red.