Hello my dear readers,
And since is the month of love, today let’s discover the fruits of Venus or better known as strawberries.
The strawberry has always been considered the fruit of passion for various reasons: first for its red color, and secondly for its appearance as an heart shape.
In fact, related to this we have an example that comes from the French world of the Sun King. It is said that Louis XVI had a great appetite and a real passion for strawberries and that in his royal court these “fruits of Venus” were at the center of some amorous games. For instance, when a lady showed her interest in a knight and invited him to a night dating, she lewdly used to eat strawberries with sugar and cream.
Commonly the term strawberry means the edible part of the Fragaria vesca plant, but in reality they are not real fruits, but the enlarged receptacle of an inflorescence. The real fruits are identified in the so-called “achenes”, or better known as the yellow seeds on the surface of the strawberry.
The strawberry as we know it today, was born in France and has very ancient origins.
The first variety cultivated dates back to the beginning of the Eighteenth century.
Its scientific name is Fragraria and derives from the Latin word fragrans (fragrant), just in virtues of the intense aroma released by its fruits, especially those that grow spontaneously in the woods.
The strawberry is a member of the rose family, with the most common varieties being a hybrid of the wild Virginia strawberry (native to North America) and a Chilean variety.
The plant produces succulent, red, conical fruit from tiny white flowers, and sends out runners to propagate.
Although they have been around for thousands of years, strawberries were not actively cultivated until the Renaissance period in Europe.
The strawberries that we currently grow and eat come from the creation of a hybrid, a random cross between two American octoploid species of Fragaria.
Until just over two centuries ago, in fact, the strawberries that were known were wild spontaneous species, wild strawberries that grew in many areas of the world.
These were not considered a real fruit, but were used as ornaments, for the borders of the flower beds to enhance the flowering.
It seems that this food was already appreciated even by prehistoric man, as evidenced found in some mountainous areas of central-western Europe.
In the hybrid variety, the fruit began to be cultivated in Europe at the beginning of the eighteenth century brought by a French general, Frézier, returning from Chile.
Strawberries in history
According to mythology, the strawberry was particularly loved by the Romans especially during the holidays dedicated to Adonis and it is said that at his death, Venus, goddess of love, wept many tears that reached the earth, and turned into small red heart-shaped fruits.
During the Middle Ages, this fruit, in shape and color, began to be called “heart fruit”, as food capable of appeasing the passions of love.
But other legends said that whoever ate them could be transformed into a monster (the belief, in all probability, derives from allergic subjects who experienced skin manifestations).
Another legend wanted the strawberry to protect against snake bites: but only those collected on the day of St. John (June 24), which had to be dried and made into a belt that would protect against snake poison.
Until the 16th century, strawberries were not highly regarded. Then some people began to attribute their therapeutic qualities: according to a German alchemist, Crollius, the fruit could cure leprosy because it was similar in appearance to the symptom of the disease; for Della Porta (Italian philosopher and alchemist) it was instead a remedy for wounds because it was red like blood. Madame Tallien made more use of it between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, who used ten kilos at a time to bathe and maintain beautiful skin.
In the 1600s, strawberries became Shakespeare’s favorite delicacy, he called them “fairy food” and the favorite of the Sun King too.
The medieval tradition, on the other hand, sees strawberries as a symbol of temptation and even today, moreover, is sometimes a symbol of it.
Strawberry plant aspect
The surface of the strawberry is covered with numerous yellow or brown dots. The real fruits are the so-called achenes or the yellow seeds that are seen on the surface of the strawberry.
The leaves have a long hairy petiole and are in turn divided into three leaves with a serrated edge, and the flowers are formed by 5 white petals.
A first rudimentary cultivation technique of the plant was applied by the gardeners of Louis XIV, who uprooted the wild varieties from the woods to replant them in the gardens of Versailles.
The application of this method remained unchanged until the beginning of the eighteenth century, when with the arrival of non-European species the complete cycle of cultivation began.
According to studies, the first variety of large-fruited strawberries would appear in the nineteenth century in England, through a series of hybridizations, which would bring small European strawberries to grow and become similar to those we find on our tables today.
Andrew Knight is the first to undertake genetic improvement work, obtaining in 1816 two of the first fundamental varieties of this crop, Downton and Elton.
In many countries this crop, as it has become today, represents an important source of income, with a significant role in the world of employment and in society.
No garden should exist without strawberries. Strawberries are beautiful, lively, easy to grow and tasty to savor. They are particularly low-calorie with only 30 calories for every 100 grams of fruit (about 4 strawberries).
Strawberry cultivation requires minimal care and little space but manages to give great satisfaction with an abundant fruit production.
There are 600 varieties of strawberries, so when you start cultivation choose your favorite one.
You should know that there are strawberries that bloom several times (strawberries four seasons), others that make a single harvest.
Is it better to grow re-flowering or single harvest strawberries?
Many claim that single harvest strawberries have a sweeter and tastier pulp than the re-flourishing varieties. It’s up to you to experiment!
Or even better, nothing can stop you from growing re-flowering and single harvest strawberries at the same time.
There are many varieties of strawberries, which are distinguished both by size, shape and color of the fruit, and by different crop cycle.
There are also varieties more suitable for hot climates and others that better resist the cold.
The varieties of wild strawberries are delicious, with a smaller but fragrant and sweet fruit.
If you want to be original, pineapple strawberries have been found for some years, a variety of white strawberries that has a taste that recalls that of tropical fruit.
In addition, there are varieties of climbing strawberries that stand out for a particularly abundant harvest and varieties of white strawberries.
How to grow strawberries from seed
To sow strawberries use boxes to keep in a very bright environment, with good exposure. Use fertile potting soil to keep moist. With a temperature between 22 – 24°C, the strawberry seeds will begin to sprout within 10 days.
After sowing, thin out the plants produced by eliminating the smaller and weaker ones. For a more orderly result you can sow in pots or honeycombed containers.
When the seedling has produced 4 – 5 green leaves, you can continue your cultivation and plant the strawberries in the permanent home, in pots, in the vegetable garden or in the garden.
How to grow strawberries in pots
For both pot and garden cultivation, you need to remember your soil needs.
Strawberries prefer a sandy loam and rich in organic substances. The pH can vary from 5.5 to 6.5 but they manage to grow in all types of soil, the important thing is to maintain good drainage.
How to plant strawberry in pot?
Place the seedling in the pot.
Fill the pot with fresh potting soil until it completely covers the roots.
Water with plenty of water.
When you water, make sure the water doesn’t touch the leaves and, subsequently, must not touch the fruits.
Strawberries are a very simple fruit to grow, you can do it in the vegetable garden but also safely potted on your balcony.
The seedlings are very small and take up little space, the sweet and tasty fruits are above all the joy of children and gluttons like me.
The plant is rustic and does not present great difficulties in cultivation, the satisfaction of eating strawberries collected directly from your garden or terrace will be unique.
Climate. Strawberry is a rustic plant that tolerates cold as well as summer heat. However, it fears the strong sun that can burn the seedlings, for this reason it is better to put it in areas of partial shade or shade with sheets.
Soil. Strawberries need a soft soil without water stagnations to which they are very sensitive. We need a soil rich in organic nutrients.
Cultivation on the balcony does not require special precautions, strawberries do not require much space (just a 15 cm deep pot), remember to put expanded clay or gravel on the bottom of the container to avoid stagnations that can cause the roots to rot.
Strawberries are grown commercially in a long list of countries, with China, the U.S., and Mexico leading the production.
How do we eat strawberries?
They are eaten fresh, naturally dressed with lemon, sugar, cream or ice cream, wine or in fruit salad. In pastry they are used to garnish cakes, pies, to make jams, jellies, syrups and ice cream.
The wild strawberry leaves are used to flavor some meat preparations.
Strawberry production is also intended for the production of liqueurs.
Strawberries are widely used in confectionery, but since the 1980s, with the spread in Italy of Nouvelle Cuisine, which has upset the traditional concepts of aromatic associations, this fruit has had some luck also as a component of risotto and a sweet and sour sauce created to accompany large roasts and meat dishes.
If in the past the youngest leaves of the plant were used as a substitute for tea, today the strawberry is one of the most popular fruits for various preparations, especially sweets and jams.
How can we store the strawberries?
Local strawberry-growing season is typically short in most parts of the country but strawberries can easily be frozen for consumption any time of the year. Wash the strawberries and lay them on a parchment-lined baking sheet so they are not touching each other and freeze them until solid. Then transfer the individually quick-frozen strawberries to a freezer-safe zip-top bag and keep them frozen for up to one year. Pop-out as many or as few as you like to use them year-round. Frozen strawberries are especially good for smoothies.
Are the strawberries healthy?
Strawberries have many healthy virtues: first of all, they have a very high antioxidant power that is 20 times higher than that of other foods and a rich content of vitamin C compared to citrus fruits; that’s why strawberries are at the top of ORAC ranking (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) drawn up by the USDA (the U.S. Department of Agriculture), special ranking of super foods that keep us young. But that’s not all: it is also rich in calcium, iron and magnesium and is recommended for those suffering from rheumatism and cooling diseases. It is also particularly suitable for fighting cholesterol. The salicylic acid contained in them, in addition to being effective against gout, helps to keep blood pressure and fluidity under control.
Strawberry also has a high phosphorus content and is used for laxative, diuretic and purifying properties.
Strawberries are also refreshing, diuretic, purifying and detoxifying.
Finally, they contain xylitol, a sweet substance that prevents the formation of dental plaque and kills the germs responsible for bad breath.
One of the most important nutritional qualities of the strawberry is the presence of sugar: 4.9 grams per 100 of product. The vitamin C content of strawberries (5 strawberries contain as much vitamin C as an orange) (100 grams contains 71 percent of the recommended daily value), promotes the absorption of iron, useful for the formation of red blood cells and for muscles, and the production of collagen, a protein that prevents wrinkles and strengthens the capillaries by reducing water retention and cellulite.
This anti-retention action is enhanced by potassium, a mineral that strawberries are rich in.
Strawberries are precious for beauty because they are made up of 90% water: they hydrate the body’s cells without weighing it down with too many calories.
They are also rich in fiber, able to increase the sense of satiety, regularize the intestine and make it absorb less fat and less sugar.
Also very suitable for wrinkle prevention when used as a face mask, making the skin soft and velvety. To obtain a nourishing mask, just mix the pulp of the strawberry with a couple of spoons of cream or honey until you get a cream that should be applied on the skin for 20 minutes and then rinsed.
Strawberries are also excellent against couperose (a type of rosacea in which small blood vessels on the cheeks, nose, forehead or chin expand and lose their elasticity) by using the leaves for refreshing compresses, while the juice helps prevent sunburn and is used as an ingredient for action compounds lightening, emollient and revitalizing.
Some research has shown that, thanks to their folic acid content, strawberries are useful for maintaining memory.
Guide to buying strawberries
- Preferably buy local strawberries when they are in season.
- Choose turgid strawberries with bright and uniform red color, and with petiole well attached to the fruit.
- If you buy them in trays, check that there are no dented or moldy fruits, because in a short time the mold can be extended to the whole package.
Strawberries are high in water and a healthy part of any diet.
Note that strawberries frequently top the yearly Dirty Dozen food list. The list is comprised of foods that contain the highest levels of pesticides. Some organizations recommend buying organic strawberries whenever possible to minimize your exposure to pesticides. Or even better, why not grow them yourself 😊
Thank you all for reading.
Join me next time as is time to discover another super easy recipe, perfect for Valentine’s Day 💕 but not only.
And if you would like to discover more about our food, you may enjoy my previous posts
Wish you a wonderful day!