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noun [countable]

a type of white berry that has the appearance and texture of a strawberry, but tastes like a pineapple

'UK's Waitrose unveils the Pineberry … This striking white strawberry variety is described as having a "highly aromatic smell – more akin to a pineapple" … "Pineberries offer our customers the chance to add a new fruit into their diet and the berries' bright appearance can add an unusual decoration to sweet dishes".'

Australian Food News 6th April 2010

The strawberry – the culinary hallmark of an English summer, as quintessentially British as village fetes, vicarage teas and Wimbledon. But this year, there's a new kid on the block, something that challenges the very essence of that harmonious blend of strawberries and cream (think snow-white liquid poured over glistening red berries). No, this youngster in the berry world shatters all the stereotypes, because it's not crimson or purple, but pale and, well, white. Enter the new fruit that retailers are hoping will tempt our curiosity – the pineberry.

the pineberry has met with mixed reactions, some food critics arguing that it doesn't taste much like pineapple, but more like a sour, tasteless, watery strawberry

A pineberry is a kind of 'strawberry in reverse', a small fruit whose skin is pale cream and studded with red seeds (as opposed to red skin studded with green seeds). Its shape and texture therefore resemble a strawberry, but its flavour and smell are quite different, said to be closer to those of a pineapple. Usually grown in greenhouses, pineberries start off green, in the same way that strawberries do, but gradually turn paler as they ripen. They are smaller than commercially-grown strawberries, usually measuring between 15 and 23mm across.

The pineberry has met with mixed reactions, some food critics arguing that it doesn't taste much like pineapple at all, but more like a sour, tasteless, watery strawberry. Whether the word is here to stay will very much depend on the great British public. Many of us, myself included, might be curious enough to slip a punnet of pineberries into our shopping trolleys, but whether we'll begin to see pineberry pavlovas or pineberry cream teas – the jury is still out on that one.

Background – pineberry

Though the word pineberry is new for 2010, coined for the launch of the fruit season in the UK market, the berries themselves are not a new creation. They originated from a variety of strawberry which once grew wild in South America (in fact historically, strawberries were white in South America and red in North America). This variety was practically extinct until 2003, when it was rescued by a group of Dutch farmers and later commercialized by the company VitalBerry BV. The berries were initially referred to by the German expression Ananaserdbeeren which translates as 'pineapple strawberries'. Pineberries are not the only example of white strawberries. Other varieties which are not widely available in shops, but can be purchased as plants to grow in the UK and elsewhere include 'White Soul' and 'White Delight'.

VitalBerry also recently attempted to popularise another hybrid fruit, known as the strasberry, a cross between a strawberry and a raspberry. Hybrid varieties of fruits are not confined to berries however. A notable combination that has been experimented with since the late 19th century is plum with apricot, a marriage producing a number of different varieties which were initially described as plumcots, and later pluots or apriums, depending on their plum to apricot ratio. The terms pluot and aprium are trademarks of the US fruit geneticist Floyd Zaiger.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 28th June 2010.

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