What springs to your mind when you think about strawberries? Summer? Sunshine? The beach? Fruit picking as a child (and eating more than you should)? The juice dribbling down your chin? Wimbledon? Popped into a glass of cold bubbly? Whatever you think of, it’s probably a happy thought. Grown all over the world on farms, in back gardens and wild in hedgerows, they’re a delicious, sweet and juicy fruit, favored by millions.
But where did they come from? A member of the rose family, the common garden strawberry that we all enjoy today is a hybrid of the native North American wild Virginia strawberry and another native to Chile. Although it has its roots in the Americas, this now common hybrid was first grown in Brittany in France in the late Renaissance period of the 1750s. The name strawberry is a bit of a mystery, but it’s thought to have British origins. The old English word ‘streawberige’ means “the berry associated with straw” but nobody is 100% sure why. Some say that it’s because the runners that strawberries grow from look like straw. Straw was also traditionally used around the base of the plant to lift the fruit from the soil, to avoid the delicate flesh being bruised. Given all of this history, we like to see strawberries as the most multicultural of fruits!
Strawberries are very quintessentially British. They’re the taste of a British summer and it's estimated that over the two-week period of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, a whopping 140,000 bowls of English strawberries are served up. That equates to an unbelievable 28,000 kilos.
75% of American strawberries are grown in the Californian sunshine, and there are many strawberry festivals held there. The first strawberry festival dates back to 1850. We’ve obviously been enjoying their sweet taste for a long time.
Strawberries can be eaten frozen, freeze dried, whizzed up in a smoothie or of course, straight from the garden. They’re perfectly paired with chocolate or cream (or both) and also go surprisingly well with certain savory flavors too. Try adding strawberries to a green salad and dressing it with balsamic vinegar for an on-trend twist. Impress your dinner party guests by serving vodka on the rocks, infused with strawberry and rosemary as a pre-dinner aperitif. Or, channel your inner celebrity chef and make your own strawberry and basil ice cream.
Packed with vitamins, an average serving of eight strawberries contains 150 per cent of our recommended daily amount of vitamin C. Fat-free, they’re fairly high in sugar. But as they’re also rich in fiber, they have a low glycemic load, meaning that they won’t cause peaks in blood sugar levels like other sugary treats do. They’re also high in an antioxidant called anthocyanin. Fruits high in this compound are currently being studied for their anti-cancer properties and early results are promising.
So whether you’re eating them whole, adding them (occasionally) to ice cream or sprinkling organic freeze-dried strawberry powder onto your granola, you’re reaping the rewards of this delicious, nutritious, happy-memory-inducing super fruit. Enjoy!