Goldenberry test results in high tunnels encouraging

Associate Editor

QUEENSTOWN, Md. (May 23, 2017) — The University of Maryland Extension is a year into trials on a potentially lucrative alternative crop for regional growers — goldenberries.
Two varieties tested in 2016 — Goldenberry and Gigante — showed “great promise” due to a high market value and increasing public interest in the fruit, according to a report given to attendees at the Extension’s annual High Tunnel Twilight tour at the Wye Research and Education Center on May 17.
Three to 4 ounces of goldenberries — about 20 pieces of fruit from the Goldenberry variety — can sell in stores and farmers’ markets for about $4, said Andrew Ristvey, an Extension specialist in commercial horticulture.
He said he first got the idea to cultivate goldenberries in Maryland while traveling abroad.
They’re popular in Europe and South America and viewed as a “super-fruit” because they’re high in fat-soluble antioxidants, he said.
“Already some (American farmers) have figured this one out,” he said.
Extension is investigating the practicality of goldenberry cultivation in high tunnels with the hope of expanding the fruit’s growing season and sales windows for premium prices. The Gigante variety has a bright, sweet, lemony flavor and is about 50 percent larger than the Goldenberry variety.
“Goldenberry’s flavor is a kind of pineapple custard flavor. Very peculiar,” he said.
Seeds for the 2016 trials were purchased from an online vendor, germinated in late March and grown in plug trays until they were 5 to 8 inches tall.
The plants were transplanted into the high tunnels in June.
There are no published nutrient recommendations for goldenberries, but a similar plant, the tomatillo, suggested a range of 107 to 214 pounds of nitrogen per acre in three to four split applications between planting in April and the end of August.
Fruit from the Goldenberry variety was harvested seven times between July 29 and Nov. 10.
About 28 pounds were collected from the plants, the report said, averaging about 30.5 ounces and $40 in potential profit per plant over the season.
About 3 pounds were harvested in 30 minutes from the Gigante variety on Aug. 23, and it was a more difficult harvest.
No diseases were discovered through the season, though the three-lined lema bettle was a major pest. Hornworm also became a major problem from August into the fall, the report said.
Pesticides including Sevin, Javelin Bt and Neemix were sprayed to manage the pests.
Moving forward, Extension staffers, including Mike Newell, the center’s horticulture crops program manager, will add an additional variety, Columbia, to the trials.
Seeds purchased from an online vendor germinated in February and were transplanted in April.