You may never have heard of the benicia or the mojave strawberry varieties, but Kirk Larson, pomologist with the University of California’s South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine, said that’s likely to change within the next few years.
Both cultivars, which are short-day varieties similar to the popular ventana but of better quality, will be available for planting this spring.
Benicia has a production pattern that is similar to ventana’s, Larson said.
It has a heavy peak followed by a gap in May, but then comes back later in the season, around late May or early June.
Mojave is a steady producer with no noticeable gap, he said.
It’s a shiny fruit with good flavor, while benicia, which also has good flavor, is not so shiny, but has a deep, salmon-red interior.
“It’s totally unusual,” Larson said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The new cultivars will be planted in April and should be available in the southern districts in the fall.
In the end, it will be up to the growers to decide how popular the varieties are, he said.
Larson expects to see interest in benicia because of its unusual interior color and flavor and the fact that it is very productive. On the negative side, it doesn’t take rain as well as some other varieties.
The mojave has a better flavor than the ventana, a bright red color and large berries, he said. But a possible drawback is that, late in the season, when temperatures rise, it may be too soft to let sit on the plant too long.
“They’ll have to harvest more frequently,” Larson said.
Larson is upbeat about both varieties, and he thinks at least one will catch on in Southern California.
The university also has other varieties in the pipeline, but he said no timeframe has been determined for their release.