Inside Driscoll's: The Secret Life of Berries
By Saltshaker Trendspotters
This summer, the Saltshaker team took a step inside the delicious and sun-filled world of berries grown in Monterrey, CA and discovered, much to our surprise, that what takes seconds to devour requires years to produce.
Our berry education came courtesy of the Foodservice Conference & Expo, sponsored by the Produce Marketing Association. Conference attendees were given the chance to meet farmers, distributors and produce companies—including the horticultural masterminds at Driscoll’s, best known for producing strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries.
A member of Driscoll’s research and development department shared information about the company’s plant breeding program. The plump, perfect berries we find in stores are no accident of nature. They are scientifically bred to develop into ripe, juicy specimens.
Driscoll’s is no stranger to plant breeding. Beginning with strawberries in 1945, they have refined the process of berry breeding. The life of a berry begins with two parent plants that exhibit favorable characteristics to produce offspring that are flavorful, attractive, shelf-stable and high yielding; a more controlled version of what bees do naturally.
These selectively bred plants are then tested to make sure they will continue to produce offspring with the same characteristics and positive qualities. Once the ideal plant is created, the plant becomes an asexual propagate that is planted in test plots in Driscoll’s research areas. From start to finish, this process of creating the perfect berry can take 7 to 15 years.
Here are some other fun facts about the surprisingly complex inner world of berries that we learned from the Driscoll’s team. Some (if not all) may surprise you:
- All of Driscoll’s hybridization is natural and does not involve GMOs.
- Plant patents last 20 years and are constantly being replaced.
- Through molecular biology (plant DNA), Driscoll’s can “fingerprint” their berries.
- White strawberries are an older breed that is growing in popularity and is slowly coming back into the culinary scene.
- Raspberries are harvested every other day for at least seven months.
- Berry espionage is an actual thing: Driscoll’s berries have been stolen from farm plots for their specially bred plants.
- Strawberries, blackberries and raspberries are technically not berries; they’re aggregate fruits.
- Bananas, grapes, eggplants, cucumbers and tomatoes, however, are berries.