Planting several different varieties of strawberries in the field offers growers extended ripening times and curtails the spread of diseases. University of Minnesota fruit breeders continue research for more cold-hardy, productive plants.

It is not a fast process. Strawberries undergo years of scrutiny and propagation tests before being released. After a year in the greenhouse, the most disease-resistant seedlings are tested at the nation’s coldest agricultural research center, the North Central Research and Outreach Center at Grand Rapids, and at the Horticultural Research Center at Victoria. In the second summer, the fruit is evaluated: some may be small, tasteless, or too acid or tannic tasting. The best berries are notable for their creamy, juicy texture and flavor. Plants that don’t survive the winter or show signs of disease or mold are eliminated. Only a small percentage is good enough to save, and the best plants are set out in rows and monitored for two more years.

In the final stage, test plots are added at the West Central Research and Outreach Center at Morris. The harvests are evaluated— berries are measured and the yield is weighed—for two more years. If the variety is a winner, it is sent to nurseries where it will be propagated for two more years. After years of trials, the new cultivars are proven hardy, high quality, and disease resistant.

University of Minnesota Strawberry Varieties

Itasca strawberries


  • Hardy through Zone 3B
  • Productive plant with richly colored tart berries
  • Ripens late June to early July
  • Released in 2006

Mesabi strawberries


  • Large, bright red glossy fruit with melting texture
  • Fine flavor
  • Winter hardy with impressive disease resistance
  • Ideal for gardens with reduced pesticide use
  • Ripens mid- to late June
  • Released in 1999

Winona strawberries


  • Large fruit with excellent texture and hints of peach flavor
  • Hardy and disease resistant
  • Ripens late June to early July
  • Released in 1996

Itasca™, Mesabi™, and Winona™ strawberries were released jointly with the USDA-ARS.

Itasca™, Mesabi™, and Winona™ are trademarks of the University of Minnesota.

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All University of Minnesota strawberry varieties

The University of Minnesota fruit breeding program has released 16 strawberry varieties since the research began. Some of the varieties listed below are no longer common or commercially available.

Variety nameTypeYear released
MinnehahaJune bearing1920
MinnesotaJune bearing1920
NokomisJune bearing1921
ChaskaJune bearing1922
EasypickerJune bearing1922
BurgundyJune bearing1943
ArrowheadJune bearing1946
EarlimoreJune bearing1958
TrumpeterJune bearing1960
NorthlandJune bearing1981
Winona™June bearing1996
Mesabi™June bearing1999
Itasca™June bearing2006