I love strawberries.
A bold statement, yes, but one I can truly stand behind. I don’t think I’m alone, either. While teaching this past year, I taught my students about the five senses. When it came time to both taste and smell- strawberries were the clear winners. Many students even told me it was their favorite food, this sweetheart of a fruit. With a classroom full of picky eaters, it was amazing to find that there wasn’t a single person with a distaste for the juicy berries. With so many attractive features, it’s hard to deny the irresistible strawberry.
There are a number of guesses as to where the name came from, including the strewn-berry theory, which accounts for the somewhat uneven distribution of fruit on the plant. I think it makes the most sense that they were called this after farmers learned that putting straw under ripening fruit would help keep it safe from damage and pests. Being such a low-growing plant you wouldn’t want all of your hard work ending up in the mud. Strawberries belong to the Fragraria family and are related to roses, apples, and plums. (I always thought the blossoms looked similar!) Their pleasant scent announces their ripeness, to be noted by shoppers, as strawberries will not continue to ripen once harvested.
Strawberries are a native fruit to North America, long celebrated by traditional Aboriginal peoples. The strawberries we see and buy today are no longer the wild fruit that was once prevalent, but cultivated as a result of cross-breeding. Just like other fruit, growers are looking for the biggest, juiciest, and reddest fruit to send to their buyers. That doesn’t seem to have hurt the nutritional content as far as scientists and our bodies are concerned. By eating just eight, medium strawberries, you are in-taking 120% of your daily recommended dose of Vitamin C. With just a few calories you’re also going to get a good dose of folic acid, potassium, and fiber. The flavonoids contained within strawberries, which account for the red color, can also help reduce your cholesterol levels. It has also been found that their ellagic acids not only help whiten your teeth by removing stains, but are also strong anti-cancer compounds.
Strawberries are the only type of fruit that have their seeds on the outside. Each one has about 200 seeds, which are actually considered their own mini-fruits, due to their location. The number of strawberries that are produced in one year in California, if placed end to end, would wrap around the world 15 times! North Americans aren’t the only ones who love these heart-shaped treats. Ancient Romans were true worshipers of the strawberry and believed they had the power to alleviate symptoms of melancholy, fainting, fevers, and blood disease. Today, fresh strawberry juice can still be recommended to reduce fever, and with the addition of honey, can help calm and sooth sunburn. Medieval stone masons even used to carve the likeness of the fruit on their alters and around the tops of cathedrals and churches as a symbol of perfection and righteousness. In Bavaria, farmers used to tie little baskets of fresh strawberries to the horns of their cattle and send them into the woods. It was believed that the elves who resided there loved strawberries above all others and that these offerings would yield healthy calves and abundant milk.
It only takes strawberries three days to turn from green, to white, to red. An astoundingly quick maturation process that allows for an almost continual harvest during their growing season. With our late start to Spring this year, I have yet to hear that the Manitoba strawberries are ready for my sampling. I’ve been dreaming of cakes and jams and freshly whipped cream. I’m not sure whether anyone will be willing to share their sweet bounty of strawberries with Fruit Share this Summer, but it is my hope. Should you find yourself with an abundance of the berries, please don’t hesitate to register at www.fruitshare.ca or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Unless they’re going to the elves, I know how much they like them.)