New Jersey isn’t called the “Garden State” for nothing. The Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) has just created a strawberry so tasty they patented it. Agricultural agent and Rutgers Professor Bill Hlubik spent 10 years working alongside a food scientist, plant biologist, and other agricultural agents in order to perfect the popular berry. The research team’s final product was developed, released, and dubbed the new “Rutgers Scarlet” strawberry.

"In developing something that will ship well, sometimes you have a little loss of flavor," Hlubik said in a press release. "Our goal was to develop a sweet and juicy Jersey strawberry with exceptional flavor that would encourage more people to search it out and buy local."

It was the state’s farmers that got together and asked the NJAES to create a strawberry, and a long list of other plant varieties, so delicious to consumers it had the power to draw more customers back to local markets and pick-your-own farms. The fruit was also developed to be eaten soon after it is picked and not shipped cross country to other states — this way New Jersey will have a monopolized strand of strawberry. It takes years to identify and select the right type qualities for plants, and the NJAES plans on rolling out a new line of genetically modified tomatoes, asparagus, and squash to improve taste and appearance for the coming harvest seasons.

"You are always looking for something bigger, with more flavor and more eye appeal for the customer," said South Brunswick farmer Bob Von Thun, who runs a family operated farm and has been working with the experiment station to test the new strawberry plant. "We are looking for something that is going to be really flavorful and make people say, 'Wow, why did I ever bother with strawberries from the supermarket?' When you eat a Jersey strawberry picked that day, compared to a California strawberry that was probably picked three weeks ago, there is a huge difference."

In improving taste, these agriculture experts may also increase strawberry consumption. Harvard scientists studied strawberries and blueberries for over 18 years and found out of the 93,600 women they tracked, those who ate the most were 34 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack than those who ate less. By just eating three or more servings of the bright red and blue berries each week could cut a woman’s risk of heart attack later in life.

Its carefully balanced levels of sweetness and acidity are what set the scarlet strawberry apart, according to professor and agricultural agent for Rutgers Cooperative Extension Peter Nitzsche. Designing the new breed took several years in order to identify and select the ideal characteristics to give it desirable taste, texture, and pigment. Unfortunately, these perfect red berries will be scarce, so strawberry lovers might have to wait next year for the official taste test. This spring, the Rutgers Scarlet was grown a limited quantity but is expected to be more widely available next year for customers to consume locally. 

"Since developing better flavor was the top priority, the Rutgers Scarlet strawberry has undergone hundreds of formal and informal taste tests," Nitzsche said. "If you have something that is only sweet, it can be bland, but the combined sweetness and acidity is what really creates that excitement on your tongue."