Strawberries have grown wild for millennia in temperature regions throughout the world. They began being cultivated sometime before the Christian era and were highly prized by many ancient Romans. Yet, after the fall of Rome, they seemed to have lost their favor until they reemerged in Europe in the Middle Ages. During this time, they began to be prized again, more so for their medicinal qualities than for their culinary value. Cultivation techniques of the European varieties, which were much smaller than the American varieties, were advanced at this time, although the resulting fruits were not as sweet and fragrant as the strawberries of today, and therefore, they did not readily gain widespread popularity.Share
It was not until the 18th century, when coincidence and the workings of Nature's mysteries coincided, that strawberries developed into the luscious fruit we know them to be and began to be more widely appreciated. In 1714, a French engineer sent to Chile and Peru to monitor Spanish activities in these countries "discovered" a strawberry native to this region that was much larger than those grown in Europe. He brought many samples back to France, which were subsequently planted. These plants did not originally flourish well until a natural crossbreeding occurred between this species and a neighboring North American strawberry variety that was planted nearby in the field. The result was a hybrid strawberry that was large, juicy and sweet, and one that quickly grew in popularity in Europe.The strawberry, like many other perishable fruits at this time, remained a luxury item only enjoyed by the wealthy until the mid-19th century. Once railways were built and more rapid means of transportation established, strawberries were able to be shipped longer distances and were able to be enjoyed by more people. The strawberry is now the most popular berry fruit in the world. Currently, the United States, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are among the largest commercial producers of strawberries.