By Matt Schreier
Description of Strawberrys:
The Wild Strawberry, a delicate, thin-leaved plant, with small, scarlet berries, cone-shaped and studded with tiny, brown 'seeds,' has a fragrance and flavour more delicate even than the cultivated Strawberry. It chooses a slightly sheltered position, and, being very small, considerable labour goes to the collection of its fruit, which is much more used and appreciated in France than in Great Britain.
- 1629 is the date assigned to the introduction of the Scarlet Strawberry from Virginia, and the earliest mention of the Strawberry in English writings is in a Saxon plant list of the tenth century, and in 1265 the 'Straberie' is mentioned in the household roll of the Countess of Leicester. 'Strabery ripe,' together with 'Gode Peascode' and 'Cherrys in the ryse,' were some of the London cries mentioned by Lydgate in the fifteenth century. Ben Jonson, in a play written in 1603, speaks of:
- 'A pot of Strawberries gathered in the wood
- To mingle with your cream.'
The common idea that the word Strawberry is derived from the habit of placing straw under the cultivated plants when the berries are ripening is quite erroneous. The name is older than this custom, and preserves the obsolete preterit 'straw' of the verb 'to strew,' referring to the tangle of vines with which the Strawberry covers the ground.
Strawberry Historical Facts:
- Strawberries are thought to have been cultivated in ancient Rome.
- The strawberry, as we know it, was originally grown in northern Europe, but species are also found in Russia, Chile, and the United States.
- The berries seem to be strewn among the leaves of the plant. The plant first had the name strewberry, which later was changed to strawberry.
- In France strawberries were cultivated in the 13th Century for useas a medicinal herb.
- Historical Medicinal Uses of Fragaria Vesca (Alpine Strawberry):
It is said that the leaves, roots and fruits of this variety of strawberry were used for a digestive or skin tonic. Internally, the berry was used for diarrhoea and digestive upset, while the leaves and the roots were used for gout. Externally, it was used for sunburn and skin blemishes, and the fruit juice was used for discoloured teeth.
- The first American species of strawberries was cultivated about 1835.
- The first important American variety, the Hoveg, was grown in 1834, in Massachusetts. The hybrid variety was developed in France.
- The strawberry is considered one of the most important small fruits grown in the Western Hemisphere. Today every state in the United States and every province in Canada grows the strawberry plant.
Strawberry Horticulture Facts:
- The strawberry is a small plant of the Rosaceae (Rose) family. All varieties of the strawberry plant belong to the Fragaria genus.
- It grows both as a wild plant and as a cultivated plant.
- Some strawberries, called everbearing, produce berries throughout the summer and fall.
- Strawberry plants can be planted in any garden soil. But the richer the soil, the larger the crop. The plant grows best in a cool, moist climate and does not do well in warm temperatures. The plants may be planted in the spring or fall, but if the temperature is too cold, fall planting requires a great deal of care.
- The strawberry grows close to the ground on the stem in groups of three. The greenish white fruits turn to a rich red colour when they ripen. When the strawberry ripens, the petals of the flower fall off and all that remains is the calyx, a leafy substance shaped like a star. Not every flower produces fruit.
- Strawberries are not really berries or fruit in the "botanical" sense (i.e., the end result of a fertilized plant ovum). A strawberry is actually an "aggregate fruit" -- the "real" fruit are the objects we think of as the "strawberry seed" -- properly called "achenes" -- which are fruits in the same way that a raw sunflower seed with it's tough shell is a fruit. The "berry" is actually an "enlarged receptacle" and is not reproductive material. As a result, strawberries must be picked at full ripeness, as they cannot not ripen once picked.
- The strawberry plant has seeds on the outside skin rather than having an outer skin around the seed, as most berries do. They do not however, normally reproduce by seeds. When the fruit is developing, the plant sends out slender growths called runners. These look like strings. They grow on the ground and send out roots in the soil. The roots produce new plants which grow and bear fruit. Sometimes these plants are taken from the soil and replanted to start a new plantation of strawberry plants.
Ancient Medical Uses:
The roots, leaves, and fruits of the Alpine Strawberry, Fragaria Vesca, were used as a digestive aid and skin tonic. The berry was prescribed for diarrhea and digestive upset, while the leaves and roots were supposed to relievie gout. The berry itself was rubbed on the skin to ease the pain of sunburn and to relieve blemishes. The juice of the strawberry has its own special prescription--it brightened discolored teeth.
The ancient Romans were staunch believers in the curative powers of the strawberry. They believed it relieved melancholy and masked bad breath. According to the ancients, strawberries could cure inflammations, fevers, throat infections, kidney stones, gout, fainting spells, and diseases of the blood, liver, and spleen.
Interesting Strawberry Facts:
"Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did." (Dr. William Butler, 17th Century English Writer) Dr. Butler is referring to the strawberry. Strawberries are the best of the berries. The delicate heart-shaped berry has always connoted purity, passion and healing. It has been used in stories, literature and paintings through the ages.
In Othello, Shakespeare decorated Desdemonda's handkerchief with symbolic strawberries.
Madame Tallien, a prominent figure at the court of the Emperor Napoleon, was famous for bathing in the juice of fresh strawberries. She used 22 pounds per basin, needless to say, she did not bathe daily.
In parts of Bavaria, country folk still practice the annual rite each spring of tying small baskets of wild strawberries to the horns of their cattle as an offering to elves. They believe that the elves, who are passionately fond of strawberries, will help to produce healthy calves and abundance of milk in return.
The American Indians were already eating strawberries when the Colonists arrived. The crushed berries were mixed with cornmeal and baked into strawberry bread. After trying this bread, Colonists developed their own version of the recipe and Strawberry Shortcake was created.
In Greek and Roman times, the strawberry was a wild plant.
The English "strawberry" comes from the Anglo-Saxon "streoberie" not spelled in the modern fashion until 1538.
The first documented botanical illustration of a strawberry plant appeared as a figure in Herbaries in 1454.
In 1780, the first strawberry hybrid "Hudson" was developed in the United States.
Legend has it that if you break a double strawberry in half and share it with a member of the opposite sex, you will fall in love with each other.
The strawberry was a symbol for Venus, the Goddess of Love, because of its heart shapes and red color.
Queen Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII had a strawberry shaped birthmark on her neck, which some claimed proved she was a witch.
To symbolize perfection and righteousness, medieval stone masons carved strawberry designs on altars and around the tops of pillars in churches and cathedrals.
The wide distribution of wild strawberries is largely from seeds sown by birds. It seems that when birds eat the wild berries the seeds pass through them intact and in reasonably good condition. The germinating seeds respond to light rather than moisture and therefore need no covering of earth to start growing.
Interesting Stawberry Links: