The Raspberry-Strawberry Hybrid Is a 100-Year-Old Mystery
The internet has been abuzz about food hybrids for some time, from croloafs to taco doughnuts to crois-kies. But a particularly fascinating hybrid has less to do with mashing up a bunch of ingredients and more to do with creating something entirely new. I'm talking about fruit hybrids like bakiwis, plumcots, and tangelos, all of which sound like they could be Pokémon.
But the biggest fruit mystery started long before Instagram stunt foods were a thing. The Guardian recently uncovered an old clip from the Manchester Guardian published 100 years ago almost to the day, on September 20, 1917, claiming that a "raspberry and strawberry crossed" fruit exists. But is it real?
Back in 1917, a "Manchester correspondent" claimed that he has seen a pound of this mysterious raspberry-strawberry hybrid (rawberry? ew, no) on a shop counter. "A friend told him it was exhibited at the Shrewsbury Show a year or two before the war, that the French call it 'orbust,' and that it makes a nice-flavoured preserver,” the correspondent wrote. “He describes it as ‘round in shape, the size of a small walnut, colour a bright red like a ripe strawberry.’”
He highlighted that the main point of contention is whether this fruit is actually a real hybrid of the strawberry and the raspberry, noting that he's seen other "hybrids" that turned out to be fakes. However, he asked the secretary of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the UK's leading gardening charity that was founded in 1804. "We are all profoundly sceptical [sic] as to the possibility of a hybrid between strawberry and raspberry,” the secretary responded.
Almost exactly 100 years later, I reached out to the RHS to try to solve this mystery once and for all. Guy Barter, chief horticulturist at the RHS, said that he has “never heard of a strawberry-raspberry cross in the scientific literature.”
RHS now takes a less cut-and-dry stance, and Barter said that it’s “not outlandish to imagine” a hybrid in the future, if it doesn’t exist in the present. Scientists have tried to cross strawberries with other “closely related but separate genera” to make them able to be harvested by machine, but the fruit turned out “rather dry,” Barter added.
Barter did say that there exists something called a funberry, which he calls a “purported strawberry-raspberry cross.” However, he added it’s more likely to belong to the raspberry family with “fruit reminiscent in a very vague sort of way to strawberry.”
“The plants are said to produce canes, but pictures of the fruits show they are clearly of the structure associated with raspberries,” Barter told me. “I will have to buy one and check, I suppose.”
Well, you can purchase these alleged funberry seeds here, but it sounds as though a true hybrid’s potential still lies in the future—or perhaps the murky past.