For those who like novelty plants, pineberry (Fragaria chiloensis x virginiana) is a hybrid strawberry that produces small, white, highly aromatic fruit with red achenes (seeds) (Figure 1). While it is marketed as a berry with pineapple-like flavor, not all may perceive this flavor. Pineberries are slightly larger than a dime and are soft. In The Netherlands, they are grown in greenhouses. In Chile, white-fruited berries are grown in tunnels with ultraviolet-filtering plastic to maintain this characteristic. Plants require full sun, but the fruit tends to turn pink to blueish-pink with exposure to sunlight. Some nursery sources recommend cross-pollinating pineberry plants with a typical red-fruited strawberry, while others do not. Those who have grown pineberry report that the fruit softens early, but berries are not ready for harvest until the achenes turn from green to red in May. Compared to typical red-fruited strawberry cultivars, pineberry plants are considered sparse-bearers. Pineberry cultivars available from online sources in the United States include White Albino, White Carolina, White Pine, White D and Wonderful. To maintain the white-fruit character of the berries, only plants (not seed) should be purchased.
White-fruited strawberries of Fragaria chiloensis (Chilean strawberry) have been traced back to Chile where the native peoples, the Picunche and the Mapuche, cultivated them more than 1000 years ago. Although uncommon, native white strawberries can still be found in southern Chile today. Although early explorers documented these strawberries, they were not introduced into Europe until 1712 when Lt. Colonel Amedee Frézier brought F. chiloensis plants to France. Thereafter, the Chilean strawberry was naturally pollinated by Fragaria virginiana (red-fruited type known as scarlets). More recently, Hans De Jongh, a grower in Etten-Leur, the Netherlands obtained a diseased pineberry plant from a strawberry plant collector in France, who believed it was from the original cross from the 18th century. After selecting plants over a six year period, De Johgh released his pineberry cultivar in 2009.
Pineberries should not be confused with the albino fruit disorder of commonly-grown red-fruited strawberries. In California, warm weather followed by cloudy and foggy skies can cause albino fruit with poor flavor. Albinism has also been associated with excessive nitrogen applications in of red-fruited strawberry cultivars including, Diamante, Chandler, Sweet Charlie, and Etna.
(by Michelle Warmund, MU Horticulture)