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  • Shelly Albaum

Growing Strawberries? Choose Albion

If you're thinking about growing strawberries this year, I recommend you try the Albion Strawberry (You can buy them on amazon, but they are broadly available online.)

As with apples different types will give different results, but unlike with apples, grocery store produce departments don't educate you by labeling the variety they are selling. So that's why I'm telling you what to choose.

For sure do not bother with the standard types they sell garden stores & catalogs -- Allstar, Earliglow, Fort Laramie, Honeoye, Ozark Beauty, Scott, Sparkle, etc. Those are old heirloom varieties that have been utterly superseded by recent work at the big public agricultural universities (especially UC Davis). Don't be behind the times.

In addition to size, flavor, and firmness, you also care about abundance. Older strawberry types may be June-bearing (sweet, but only one crop per year) or everbearing (not as tasty, but 2-3 crops per year). A newer option is day-neutral, which means they fruit continuously. Albion strawberries, as you might guess are day-neutral.Albions were bred for the California climate, but California supplies 90% of America's strawberries, and the "Albion, a variety developed in the Davis labs in 2004, is widely considered the standard-bearer in flavor for commercially grown strawberries." (Sacramento Bee, February 9, 2015).

That means that when you go to ANY store and the strawberries are huge, red, firm, and sweet, it's likely that they are selling you Albions.

Or you can grow your own.

The only downside to Albions is that the variety is patented. UC Davis actually makes about $7M per year from its various strawberry patents. That creates three problems for you:

First, because they are patented, they will cost cost a few extra cents extra per plant (maybe 5-10 cents each) to cover the royalty. If you buy 100 strawberry plants, that's $5-10 bucks more than an heirloom variety would cost. Worth it.

Second, garden stores don't tend to carry Albions BECAUSE they cost just a few cents more, and therefore are just slightly less profitable than heirloom varieties, So you probably have to buy them online.

Third, it is illegal -- a violation of federal patent law -- to propagate the Albion Strawberry. That means you're not supposed to let the runners root, or, God forbid, root the runners intentionally. Woe unto the strawberry runner that roots itself in the soil. Today's federal penitentiaries have whole horticultural sections devoted to imprisoning patented strawberries that propagated themselves and then either would not or could not pay their fees. (Imprisoned berries that continue to self-propagate are already in prison, so they and their progeny just stay there.) You have been warned. From experience, though, I can tell you it is VERY easy to propagate these berries -- but like I said, don't do it.