A Better Strawberry?

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iStockphoto.com/Michael Haul
North Carolina researchers hope to breed a better strawberry.

Kannapolis, North Carolina
– North Carolina State University’s
Plants for Human Health Institute touts the merits of strawberries for the
nutritional punch they deliver. Rich in vitamin C, antioxidants and fiber,
strawberries not only taste good, they are good for you. But researchers with
the Plants for Human Health Institute believe they can make the berries even
better. To help out, they have teamed up with chefs from the Johnson & Wales University
culinary education program in Charlotte,
North Carolina.

In a
first-of-its-kind project, funded by the Golden LEAF Foundation, North Carolina
State plant breeder Dr. Jeremy Pattison is looking to the partnership to help
him tap the culinary industry’s expertise. He will determine specific
attributes – flavor, color, texture and size – that can be incorporated into
his strawberry breeding efforts.

Consumers and
industry produce buyers get in on the act, too. They will have the chance to
participate in taste test panels, which will help identify what they like best
about specific varieties of berries. The taste panels will be coordinated by
Sensory Spectrum, located near the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis.
Sensory Spectrum, a globally recognized management consulting firm, specializes
in understanding the sensory-consumer experience.

In addition to
the research, the effort, known as “The North Carolina Strawberry Project,”
taps into the nation’s growing interest in local foods. Project coordinators
will introduce Johnson & Wales students, the “chefs-of-tomorrow,” to local
farmers and agricultural research. The payoff stands to benefit communities
nationwide when these future chefs, no matter their location, open their own
businesses and seek out nearby farmers.

North Carolina State expects the ultimate beneficiaries to be
the consumer. By facilitating relationships between plant breeders, chefs,
farmers and consumers, project coordinators hope more people become aware of
and involved in the food production process. The state’s economy could benefit
as well. Project coordinators expect to grow strawberry sales from $20.8
million to $26 million.

Anyone who loves
strawberries can benefit now. Chef Mark Allison, dean of culinary education,
and students at Johnson &
Wales University,
have created recipes that feature this most-consumed berry.

The N.C. State
University Plants for Human Health Institute is part of the N.C. Research
Campus, a public-private venture including eight universities that collaborate
in the fields of nutrition and health.

The N.C.
Strawberry Project is a partnership of N.C.
State University
(including the Plants for Human Health Institute and N.C. MarketReady) and Johnson & Wales University. This project received
support from the Golden LEAF Foundation. Learn more at the N.C. MarketReady
website or find us on Facebook.