Friday, May 14, 2010

Strawberries

In late May and early June, when I was growing up there were wild strawberries in the woods and fields around our house. They were especially sweet and delicious; I had no idea how healthy they were. They have quite a history as well.
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.
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.
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3 comments:

SF said...

Elena, we used to eat fresh berries that grew "wild" around our Md. home as well. Delightful memory! :)

Matterhorn said...

Well, they are among my favorite fruits:-)

Julygirl said...

Bee power! The little critters were responsible for the cross pollination. We would be in big trouble if something happened to them.