The phenomenal strawberry, one of Australia’s heritage fruits, is now being researched to identify the components that makes it popular for its taste and strong disease resistance.
The strawberries that saw their birth in the then booming town of Gympie, found local favor and national recognition not only for their taste but also for the interesting history they come with.
Sown as an extended garden project, by apprentice gardener George Flay, who left England to start a new life in Australia with his wife and two daughters, the strawberries have become one of the most defining parts of the cultural fabric of Gympie. Scientists are now researching what makes this strawberry so special. George Flay, fought the harsh weather realities of this part of the region to create his own horticultural garden during the gold rush era. He grew strawberries, more than 300 varieties of roses, as well as ranunculus, gladioli, watsonias, a wide range of fruit trees and 40 different types of grapes.
His property and the sumptuous strawberries also became an oft visited tourist destination for the locals, becoming known as Green Park but more popularly known as Strawberry Gardens. It was imprinted by visits by families in Sundays as a picnic spot, with the addition of the inbred variety of strawberry.
Flay experimented with crossing different varieties of strawberries and in 1901 he delivered a box of fruit to town including a variety called Gympie from his breeding program.
For decades, 50 of the Phenomenal plants have been kept alive at the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Maroochy Research Centre by principal horticulturist Mark Herrington. Dr. Herrington recognized its disease resistance qualities and said he decided to retain the variety “because people described it as having a flavor of strawberries ‘like they used to taste'”.