Most people would choose red or pink if asked to associate strawberries with a color. The association between strawberries and the color red is so strong that food manufacturers started coloring their raspberry-flavored products blue to avoid confusion.
However, strawberries come in several colorful varieties besides red. In fact, you may have seen shiny, jet-black strawberries on the internet, along with listings or seeds to grow your own at home.
While these supposedly “rare” berries look impressive, many skeptics think they also look fake.
What Are Black Strawberries?
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a genuinely black strawberry. Images you might see on the internet of pure black strawberries are either photoshopped or painted. In fact, black strawberries started out as art.
Strawberries can come in a few different colors, including purple.
Deep purple or burgundy berries may look almost black in some lighting. It is easy to manipulate shadows, exposure, and color saturation to further darken a photograph’s perceived color.
A more recent artistic work that inspired the clamor for black strawberries was much more intentional. Almost 20 years ago, an artist named John Robertson cast a fake strawberry out of resin and spray-painted it black.
Then, photographer Jonathan Knowles took a picture of the piece and posted it to the internet, where it went viral. Though both men have been upfront that it was merely an art piece, scammers have used it to take advantage of more gullible gardening enthusiasts.
How To Identify a Scam
Now that you know that black strawberries do not exist, you should be able to identify any listing for black strawberries or their seeds as a scam.
At best, you might get seeds for very dark purple berries, which—again—aren’t truly black strawberries. You might also get just regular strawberry bushes or something else entirely. You might not get anything at all! But whatever you get, you can guarantee it won’t be worth what you’re paying.
How are these scammers able to get away with this? Sadly, most people don’t think critically about what they see online.
People love to own things that make them stand out. If they see a listing for rare seeds with limited availability, they might not take the time to research and find out if the offer is legitimate.
It takes a long time to grow a strawberry bush that is ready to bear fruit from seed. When most realize they’ve been duped, the seller has already closed the shop they bought it from, opened a new one, and scammed someone else.
Do Strawberries Come in Other Colors Besides Red?
While black strawberries are a myth, strawberries come in more colors besides just red. Though rarer, you can find yellow/golden, white, or purple strawberries.
The Alpine Yellow Wonder Strawberry is one of the most visually stunning strawberry varieties. They are a slightly subtler yellow than a banana or a lemon and may even be described as golden sometimes.
As their name would suggest, they are native to Europe, especially the Alps. As a result, they can withstand frigid temperatures, though they can also thrive in warm climates as well.
You can start harvesting Yellow Wonder strawberries early to mid-spring and well into late fall, though production might slow during the hot summer.
White strawberries are becoming more popular on gourmet menus and even grocery store shelves. There are many different varieties of white strawberries, most of which are native to Europe or Chile.
While we usually think strawberries are red with whitish seeds, these varieties are white with red seeds.
The vivid red color we usually associate with strawberries is caused by a protein called Fragaria allergen 1 (Fra a1). White strawberries naturally lack this protein.
As you might have guessed from the name, this protein is what most people allergic to strawberries react to (Fragaria is the scientific name for strawberries). Since it is not present in white strawberries, most people with strawberry allergies can eat them without a problem.
Some hybrid varieties, like the Pineberry, produce small amounts of Fra a1, giving them a delicate blush pink coloration.
White strawberries have softer flesh than their red counterparts, making them more prone to bruising. They are also slightly sweeter; some, like the Pineberry, have subtly citrusy or tropical notes.
Purple strawberries are a relatively recent addition to the strawberry family. Purple strawberries did not evolve naturally, unlike red, yellow, and white strawberries.
Instead, they result from thirteen years of work by the Small Fruits Breeding Program at Cornell University. They are not a bright violet or a pale lavender but rather a deep, rich burgundy. They make excellent wine and preserves and are expected to thrive in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States.
Are purple strawberries GMOs? No, and yes.
Most people who use the term “GMO” to label foods as “bad” or “unhealthy” imagine scientists fiddling around with DNA in a test tube and then injecting it into the strawberry plants like Captain America. This is not how purple strawberries were made.
Instead, the scientists at Cornell cross-pollinated different species with particular traits to produce offspring with the exact combination of qualities that they wanted. This is still a conscious human effort to alter the genetic makeup of a food product.
Still, it is the same method we have been using for thousands of years before we even had an inkling of what genes were, let alone the ability to modify them.
Why Are My Strawberries Black?
While there is no such thing as a strawberry with pure black flesh all the way through, you may have occasionally noticed black spots appear on your strawberries, whether you purchased them from the grocery store or grew them in your garden.
Unfortunately, this is a sign of a fungal infection. The black spots will become mushy or even slimy, giving off a rotten odor. Once strawberries have been affected, there is no way to remove the fungus from the diseased berries, so they must be discarded.
Mold and fungus spread easily among neighboring berries on the bush or in a container.
If you discover black spots on strawberries you bought from the store, throwing the whole container away is best.
In your garden, remove the rotted strawberries from the bush and consider applying fungicide. Wear gloves while you remove the affected berries, then take the gloves off and wash your hands thoroughly before touching any clean berries.
Mold and fungus thrive in moist environments. Prolonged exposure to water makes your strawberries more susceptible to rotting. When you purchase strawberries, pat them dry to remove moisture and store them in a cool, dry place in your refrigerator.
Eat them within a few days before they can start to overripen.
If you are growing strawberries, plant them somewhere where they won’t sit in pools or puddles of water. Ensure you leave enough space between pushes to promote proper airflow and prevent moisture and humidity from accumulating on the berries.
Dark, soft spots on your strawberries may also indicate bruising. Fruit may bruise when it gets knocked around (like humans!) or simply from aging. If the cell walls of the fruit start to break down, the affected area gets exposed to oxygen.
Oxidization causes the flesh to turn brown. This isn’t dangerous; you can still eat the fruit without any ill effects. However, if you notice any sliminess or an off-putting smell, it’s best to throw the berries away.
Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.