Behind the scenes of how we grow the perfect strawberry

11 July 2017

During the summer Sainsbury’s sells more strawberries than any other product – even more than milk and bread

 

At Sainsbury’s and our supplier farms, we put a lot of hard work into making make sure we’re bringing our customers the very best berries.

We’ve gone behind the scenes with our technical manager for berries and currants, Peter Czarnobaj, at Sean Charlton’s strawberry farm in Kent to give you a taste of the science, selection process and growing techniques that we use to produce the perfect strawberries for our customers. 

As you’ll see from the video, strawberry production and strawberries themselves are more complicated than you might think!

 

Here are ten things you didn’t know about your favourite summer fruit:

Ten things you didn’t know about strawberries

  1. Sainsbury’s sells more strawberries over summer than anything else – so for four months, that’s more than the staples such as milk and bread
  2. A strawberry has more genes than a human - 35,000, which is about one and a half times more than humans. They’re also Octoploid (have eight sets of chromosomes)
  3. There are six key characteristics to the perfect strawberry - flavour, shape, size, colour, yield and disease resistance. Finding a variety even better than the ones already available is very difficult – in fact you’re more likely to win the lottery than find a successful combination of all 6 characteristics!
  4. To reach Sainsbury’s shelves, strawberries go through a rigorous and ruthless audition process – it typically takes between 7-10 years to whittle down thousands of plants to find just one that has the X factor
  5. Strawberries are somewhat frisky and can reproduce in not one, but two ways – either through the fruit, which produce genetically different children to the mother plant; or through growing plant runners, which produce genetically identical children. It’s the plant runners that are taken and grown to continue the scrupulous selection process
  6. Strawberries and rain are two essential elements of a truly British summer – unfortunately, the two don’t like to mix. That’s why strawberries are grown under polytunnels (like a greenhouse but made of polythene, instead of glass), which protect the delicate fruit from whatever the British weather throws at them
  7. Very few British strawberries are actually grown in the ground. The modern way is called a Table Top system, where plants are grown inside coconut husks, in raised beds at shoulder height. The plants are healthier and happier this way
  8. In order to protect the plants and fruit from being eaten, special carnivorous insects are brought in to devour any plant-eating pests! These ‘friendly’ insects are so small they’re invisible to the naked eye
  9. To make sure strawberries are just the right level of sweetness, a special gadget is used to test sugar levels and make sure they’re just right for customers
  10. The Murano strawberry was first sold exclusively by Sainsbury’s in 2014. It has now become so popular it is the most widely sold strawberry variety in the whole of the UK