Around 15 million punnets of Sweet Eve strawberries will be grown this year by BerryWorld Growers across the UK. It’s a true labour of love, with every berry being hand-picked.
Let us introduce you to some of our growers so you can find out more about how Sweet Eve is grown to be so full of flavour and sweetness from some of our growers.
Grower profile: R&V Emery
The Emery family have been farming in Hampshire since 1966, initially growing salad crops and then switching to soft fruit in 1993. They started to grow Sweet Eve in 2010 and this year will grow 650 tonnes – nearly 2.9 million punnets! - of the fruit on their farm in Southampton.
Brothers Richard and Vernon Emery run the farm with a focus on maintaining natural biodiversity and delivering excellent quality strawberries exclusively for Tesco stores. Vernon says that they started to grow Sweet Eve because, “it produces better fruit which tastes significantly better than other varieties and is also a good size, colour.”
Vernon believes that the Sweet Eve is, “here to stay as a better-than-average strawberry” and enjoys his straight from the punnet, saying that “there’s no need to add sugar or cream, the berry its sweet enough.”
Production for the brothers and their family starts in their glasshouses, with planting in April and the first harvest in May.
Breeder profile: Peter Vinson
Peter Vinson’s passion is strawberry breeding. The Vinson family has been growing strawberries in Kent for generations, spanning more than 150 years, and having taken over the farm from his father Edward Vinson, Peter’s initial occupation was growing. However, he had a desire to extend the British strawberry season and set about achieving his vision through a bespoke breeding program.
He has now relinquished day to day running of the farm to his nephew who continues to grow high quality strawberry and blueberry crops at the farm in Kent. Here they are able to grow significant areas of the latest varieties to gain knowledge and continue to work creatively to develop new British strawberries. Peter’s depth of expertise is unrivalled - his experience as both a grower and breeder means he understands what is required both from consumers and those who grow the fruit for them.
The Sweet Eve variety has been developed through a 25 year breeding program on which Peter has worked continuously. The program seeks to deliver the best taste, eating quality and shelf life, as well as providing growers with a high yield.
Peter comments: “Good flavour, as far as the consumer is concerned, is largely to do with high sugar, low acid and a good aroma. As we become more health aware, people are eating strawberries on their own without sugar, cream or ice cream and therefore the berries need to have fabulous flavour in their own right. The eating experience is increasingly important and this is what drove me forward when developing the Sweet Eve variety.”
Sweet Eve strawberries are orange-red in colour, and have the aroma and intense flavour of wild strawberries. They also keep for around three days in the fridge, an important factor for modern consumers, who don’t shop daily.
Peter continues: “UK grown strawberries are produced closer to home and have less distance to travel than imported strawberries. They are also picked when fully ripe so it stands to reason they will taste better. But we’ve developed Sweet Eve to also provide a ‘wow’ experience not consistently found in commercially available strawberries. They really do taste like strawberries used to.”
Sweet Eve takes its name from the EV in the Edward Vinson business. New varieties bred by the family firm have been named with EV since the 1990s and include Everest and Everglade. Sweet Eve was chosen as the variety name because the berries are naturally sweet and full of flavour, and are a source of temptation!
Peter’s success has been in everbearer varieties like Sweet Eve that continue to produce berries month after month, which has helped to extend the traditional strawberry season until October.
The popularity of berries will continue, Peter believes: “Greater availability and better flavour will give consumers confidence that the strawberries they buy will be of a consistently high quality. Sweet Eve will help to convince consumers that they don’t need to spend a fortune to buy a fantastic-tasting, sweet and flavourful strawberry that really epitomises the Great British summer. When they see the Sweet Eve label, they’ll know they’ve got a treat in store.”
Grower profile: Harry Hall, Hall Hunter Partnership
Hall Hunter Partnership (HHP) is a family business which started in 1966 in Berkshire and now operates across nine sites in Berkshire, Surrey and Sussex.
The business is run by Harry Hall, with the continued involvement of his parents Mark and Mary. Their original farm grew vegetables, but in 1992 the family started growing strawberries and by 2004 were growing over 300 acres of British berries. They now farm over 800 acres of land, exclusively producing 8,000 tonnes of soft fruit each year. The most recent addition to their portfolio is Sweet Eve which they started growing in 2009 and now produce around 2,000 tonnes of the British variety for Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Co-Op.
Harry who trained in Horticultural Business Management at the University of London is particularly interested in the Sweet Eve crop having been aware of Peter Vinson’s research work and claims of improved consistency and a naturally sweeter, juicy berry. It is now the only everbearer variety of strawberry grown on any of his farms.
The Sweet Eve crop at HHP is grown on farms operated according to LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) principles which ensures that they are rich in biodiversity as this is central to the HHP farming approach. The family are committed to the creation of farming systems that that enable, plants, people and environmental features to develop and reach their full potential. Growing in an environmentally sustainable way which is beneficial to the natural wildlife, means that growing Sweet Eve actually helps to protect wild flowers, hedgerows and the native wildlife that live in and around them. Each year, Harry opens his farm gates to show all this to the public and help them understand what farming is all about. Mary Hall also hosts numerous school visits during the summer.
The busiest time for Sweet Eve on Harry’s farm is in June when the fruit is ready to be picked. At this time Harry spends a lot of time in the fields inspecting the crops and tasting the fruit himself to check it’s the best possible quality. During the height of the season he employs around 1,700 workers to help pick the berries, each of which has to be harvested by hand to ensure the highest quality product reaches the customers.