Satisfying Your Sweet Tooth With Strawberries

Strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa) are members of the Rosaceae family, along with blackberries, plumsraspberriesapricotspeachescherries, quinces, apples, pears, almonds, and ornamental trees and shrubs (such as roses, meadowsweets, photinias, firethorns, rowans, and hawthorns).

The history of the strawberry goes back as far as the Romans and perhaps even the Greeks. Virgil included the strawberry among the beauties of the field in his Third Ecologue in 37 BC. Ovid mentioned it twice in the Metamorphoses in 8 AD. In the twenty-first book of his Natural History (ca. 78 AD), Pliny listed Fraga, the fruit of the strawberry, as one of the natural products of Italy. Some natural historians believe that the strawberry was cultivated in Greek and Latin gardens and that it was served at banquets. Apulius (125 AD-180 AD) cited the strawberry for its medicinal value.

In 916, the Emperor and King of France Charles Simplex was returning home from Lyons where he and Cardinal Clemens de Monte Alto, from Italy, had gone to settle a local dispute. The Emperor stopped at Auvers to prepare a feast for the Cardinal. Julius de Berry, a citizen of Auvers, presented the Emperor with dishes of ripe strawberries. The Emperor was so pleased with Julius’s timely offering that he knighted him and changed his surname from Berry to Fraise, the French word for strawberry, a name which later became Frazer.

Tenth-century Anglo-Saxon documents mention “streowberry.” The Anglo-Saxon word streow meant “hay.” According to one theory, Anglo-Saxons called the strawberry the “hayberry” because it ripened at the time the hay was mown. Another explanation is that the Anglo-Saxons used the name “strawberry” to describe the way the runners strew or stray away from the mother plant to find space in which to grow.

A 12th-century nun, Hildegard von Bingen, relied on faith rather than science when she decided that strawberries were unfit to eat because they may have been contaminated by snakes and toads.

The next surviving reference to the strawberry appears in the thirteenth century in the writings of a Greek doctor, Nicholas Myrepsus. By the fourteenth century, the French began transplanting the wild wood strawberry, Fragaria vesca, into their garden. An institution in northern France listed strawberry plants in its financial books in 1324. King Charles V had his gardener, Jean Dudoy, plant 1,200 strawberry plants in the royal gardens of the Louvre in Paris in 1324. The Dukes of Burgundy had four blocks of the garden at their Chateau de Couvres, near Dijon, planted in strawberries In 1375.

Meanwhile, in what is now Chile, the Mapuche in the north and the Huilliche further south may have begun to cultivate the species of strawberry that would later be named Fragaria chiloensis. The roots of this Chilean strawberry bind the sand along the coast of middle and southern Chile and then the plant advances inland, where it climbs as high as 5,100 feet in the Cordillera and as far eastward as the provinces of Neuquen, Chubut, and Rio Negro in what is now Argentina.

Londoners were buying strawberries from street vendors by 1430 when John Lidgate wrote the song of the “London Lickpenny,” which includes the cry of “strabery rype.”

By 1483, the Bishop of Ely grew strawberries in his garden at Holborn. The Duke of Gloucester asked the Bishop to send them, as referenced in Act III, Scene iv, of Shakespeare’s Richard III (1597). One of the first known botanical illustrations of the strawberry (Fragaria) appeared in the Herbarius latinus, first published in Mainz in 1484.

The Grete Herball appeared in London in 1526 as an English translation from the French work on the medicinal uses of herbs and was printed by Peter Treveris. It reported: “Fragaria is an herbe called strabery. It groweth in woodes and grenes, and shadowy places. It is pryncypally good agaynst all evylles of the mylt. The uice therof drunken with hony profyteth mervaylously…For them that take brethe with payne as it were syghynge. The uice therof take in drinke white peper heleth it. Strawberyes eate helpeth coleryke persones, comforteth the stomake, and quencheth thyrst.”

In 1530, King Henry VIII paid ten shillings for a “pottle of strawberries” according to the Privy Purse Expenses of Henry VIII. A pottle was a small basket, shaped like an inverted cone, and often held less than one-half a pint, indicating that the strawberries of the time were small, and must have been wood strawberries.

Another variety of strawberry was also native to North America, where the early people did not cultivate them, because they were abundant in the wild. Jacques Cartier brought native North American strawberries back to France from Quebec in 1534.

The French physician and botanist Jean Ruel referred to the cultivation of strawberries in his De Natura Stirpium Libri in 1536. Describing them as “growing wild in shady places,” he also noted that “gardens furnish a larger fruit.”

In 1550-1551 the Spanish exlporer Pizzaro, who had been attempting to conquer Chile for fifteen years, penetrated the region between Rio Itata and Rio Tolten, home of the Mapuche. The Spaniards considered the Chilean strawberry one of the spoils of conquest. Soon after, it arrived in Cuzco, Peru, according to Garcilazo de la Vega, the son of Spanish Captain Sebastián Garcilaso de la Vega y Vargas and the Inca princess Pall Chimpu Ocllo, as recorded in his Los Commentarios Reales de los Incas,

By the mid-sixteenth century in England, demand for strawberries spurred regular strawberry farming. In 1557, Thomas Tusser published his Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry, which recommended that women grow strawberries. In France in 1562, Jean La Bruyere-Champier, physician to Henry IV, included the strawberry among the plants that had recently entered French gardens. Sixteen years later, instructions for its cultivation appeared in L’Agriculture et Maison Rustique, in which Charles Estienne and Jean Liebault recommended replanting the fields with strawberries every three years and annual hoeing and fertilizing. In 1593, Thomas Hill wrote a glowing review of strawberries in the Gardener’s Labyrinth.

By the end of the sixteenth century, all three European species of FragariaF. vesca (wood strawberry), F. moschata (musky strawberry), and F. viridis (green strawberry)—had been identified. F. vesca, was transplanted from the woods and propagated by runners, and the plots were restocked by fresh transplantations. The everbearing strawberry, F. sylvestris semperflorens, was a subspecies of F. vesca described in the sixteenth century. At the end of the sixteenth century the two strawberries cultivated in gardens were F. vesca and F. moschata, both characterized by small, distinctly flavored fruits.

Strawberries were discovered in Virginia by the first European colonists when their ships landed there in 1588. On Saturday, June 12, 1630, John Winthrop wrote of the land on which he was to found the colony of Massachusetts Bay: “Most of our people went on shore upon the land of Cape Ann, which lay very near us, and gathered store of fine strawberries.” Early settlers in Massachusetts enjoyed eating strawberries grown by local American Indians who cultivated strawberries as early as 1643. The American Indians mixed crushed berries with cornmeal and baked it into strawberry bread. After trying this bread, European colonists developed their own version of the recipe and Strawberry Shortcake was created. In 1629, John Parkinson in his Paradisus in terrestris sole designated “the Virginia Strawberry” (what would later be classified as F. virginiana) in English. Thereafter, references to the Virginia strawberry became frequent. Gui de la Brosse, head of the Jardin du Roi at Paris, included a Fragaria americana magno fructo rubro in his 1636 Catalogue of the Garden.

A missionary, Alonso de Ovalle, who had lived in Chile until 1641, wrote a description of the Chilean strawberry in Historia Relation del Reyno de Chile, published in 1646.

In the late seventeenth century, European gardeners still mostly grew the wood strawberry, and far less frequently, the musky, the green, and the Virginia strawberry. In 1697, Jean de la Quintinie, the royal gardener at the Palace of Versailles under King Louis XIV, wrote about developing larger berries, preparing the soil, and dealing with insects. King Louis XIV chose strawberries as his favorite fruit and even initiated a strawberry poetry contest. The king sent his official mathematician, who was also a Catholic priest and trained botanist,  named Louis Feuillee to explore and map the West Indies and South America. For two years Feuillee traveled the Chilean and Peruvian coasts, mapping cities, sketching, and collecting plants. He described Chilean strawberries in a chapter of his journal titled, “Physical and Mathematical Observations with Several Remarks on Natural History Made at Concepción, January 1709.” Four months after Feuillee’s return, the King sent 30-year-old Lieutenant Colonel Amédée François Frézier on a similar mission, this time with orders to report on the Spanish fortifications. Frézier was an engineer and a member of the French Intelligence Corps. He was a descendant of Julius de Berry, who was knighted for a gift of strawberries and given the family name which derived from fraise, the French word for the strawberry. Frézier was the only explorer known to bring specimens of the large-fruited Chilean strawberry back to Europe, in 1714. Probably anxious to select superior specimens to introduce to France, Frézier had collected those plants which bore the largest fruits. These must have been females since males would produce no fruit. Unwittingly Frézier had selected only female plants in Chile; at least the five that reached France were all female.

The imported Chilean strawberries didn’t do well in Europe, and produced very little fruit. Antoine de Jussieu, head of the King’s Garden, sent propagations of his plants abroad. In 1720, just six years after Frézier’s return, the Dutch botanist Herman Boerhaave, published a description of Chilean strawberries grown from runners sent to Leyden, Holland, from the King’s Garden in Paris. He called it “Fragaria crassis rugosis soliis flore semine carens,” or the “Chile strawberry, without blooms or fruits.” Philip Miller introduced the Chilean strawberry to England in 1727 from the garden of George Clifford, a wealthy banker who had a large botanical collection in Amsterdam. In 1729, Batty Langley had a good engraving made of the flowers and fruits of the Virginia strawberry with an accompanying description in his Pomona, Or the Fruit-garden Illustrated, Containing Sure Methods for Improving All the Best Kinds of Fruits Now Extant in England…, published in London in 1729. In 1738 Carl Linnaeus gave the Chilean strawberries in Clifford’s garden the botanical name F. chiloensis.

The French gardeners of the Plougastel region of Brittany around Brest had observed that the Chilean strawberry bore abundant fruit when F. virginiana and F. moschata was planted in between the rows of F. chiloensis. In a similar climate nearby at Cherbourg, M. des Nouettes-Grou wrote that he had been cultivating the Chilean strawberries “by means of pollens from native berries… in 1758 and 1759.” The botanist Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau observed in 1764 that “in the better tended plantings, half the strawberries were of an entirely different sort,” which proved to be F. virginiana and F. moschata plants. The French discovered that F. chiloensis flourished in a marine climate. By the mid-eighteenth century, the Chilean strawberry was beginning to be grown commercially around Brest, the only place in Europe where it succeeded.

After the year 1755, Henry Laurens, who lived in Charleston, South Carolina, and served as a President of the Continental Congress, introduced olives, limes, ginger, everbearing strawberry, red raspberry, and blue grapes into the United States. From the south of France he introduced apples, pears, plums, and the white Chasselas grape.

The French royal botanist, Bernard de Jussieu, taught a young Antoine Nicolas Duchesne how to make plants reproduce and that some plants, including strawberries, could be male or female.  There were no male Chilean strawberries in Europe, but with male musky strawberries (F. moschata) planted nearby, female F. chiloensis would produce the enormous fruit for which it was famous. On July 6, 1764, seventeen-year-old Duchesne presented King Louis XV with a pot of Chilean strawberries that had been pollinated with the musky strawberry (F. moschata) to produce large, beautiful berries.

Duchesne observed several of the crosses between the Chilean strawberry and other species. Several of the progeny were able to self-pollinate. These were F. ananassa, which through future breeding would produce our modern, big-fruited strawberry, without depending upon interplanting with other species for fertilization. In 1766, Duchesne was the first to identify the parentage of the new strawberry: F. chiloensis was the mother, and F. virginiana was the father. Gardeners in England, Holland, and France made careful selections for large-fruited varieties of the Pineapple or Pine strawberry, as F. ananassa was called, due to its distinctive flavor. The Hudson variety was developed in the United States in 1780.

Large-scale cultivation of strawberries began in the early part of the 19th century, when strawberries became a popular dessert. In 1843, growers in Cinncinatti, Ohio, shipped the first refrigerated strawberries by placing ice on top of the boxes, which led to an increase in market area and a surge in popularity. New York began shipping strawberries in refrigerated railroad cars. Production spread to Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, and Tennessee. The first of many strawberry festivals was held in Belmont, Massachusetts in 1858.

Today, over 25,000 acres of strawberries are planted each year in California and the state produces over 80% of the strawberries grown in the United States. On average, each acre produces about 21 tons of strawberries and the state produces one billion pounds of strawberries a year. Large-scale production uses the modern “plasticulture” system. In this method, raised beds are formed each year and covered with plastic, which prevents weed growth and soiling of berries.

Strawberries are low in calories and fat, and they’re a rich source of many phytochemicals and minerals. They’re high in anthocyanins and ellagic acid, which protect against cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases. Fresh strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is also a powerful natural antioxidant that helps you resist infection, counter inflammation, and eliminate harmful free radicals. Strawberries are rich in B vitamins, including vitamin B6niacinriboflavinpantothenic acid, and folate. These vitamins help you metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Strawberries contain vitamin Avitamin E, and many antioxidants, such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta carotene, which act as protective scavengers against free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various diseases. They contain good amount of minerals like potassiummanganese, fluorine, coppercalciumiron, and iodine. Fluoride is a component of bones and teeth and helps prevent cavities.

Strawberries can:

  1. Reduce oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Several of the more important antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients in fresh, ripe strawberries include:
    • Ellagic acid, which directly inhibits the DNA binding of certain carcinogens, and acts as an antioxidant by reducing oxidative stress.
    • Comarin, which may act as an analgesic (a substance that relieves pain), an anti-inflammatory and an antisceptic (a substance that prevents the growth of disease-causing microorganisms), prevent arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats), cancer, osteoporosis (reduced bone mineral density), the human immunodeficiency virus (a virus that is often abbreviated to HIV and causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) which ultimately destroys the immune system), and high blood pressure, protect your capillaries from damage and treat ashthma (a respiratory disorder that causes breathing difficulties).
    • Pelargonidin, which acts as an antioxidant and protects your body’s cells from dangerous free radicals,  keeps your heart healthy, prevents cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders.
    • Proanthocyanidins, which improve insulin sensitivity and reduce free radical formation and the signs and symptoms of chronic age-related disorders.
    • Kaempferol, which has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, cardioprotective, neuroprotective, antidiabetic, anti-osteoporotic, estrogenic/antiestrogenic, anxiolytic, analgesic, and antiallergic activities, is a strong antioxidant that helps to prevent oxidative damage of your cells, lipids, and DNA, seems to prevent arteriosclerosis by inhibiting the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad” cholesterol) and the formation of platelets in the blood, and acts as a chemopreventive agent, which means that it inhibits the formation of cancer cells.
  2. Promote cardiovascular health. Your heart and blood vessels need everyday protection from oxidative and inflammatory damage, and strawberries contain large amounts of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients. They are one of the best sources of a key antioxidant vitamin: vitamin C. Strawberries are also an excellent source of manganese. Because of its key role as a cofactor for antioxidant enzyme activity by the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD), manganese is a key antioxidant mineral. Many of the phytochemicals in strawberries function not only as antioxidants but also as anti-inflammatory nutrients. These phytochemicals work together to provide their cardiovascular benefits, including decreased oxidation of fats (lipid peroxidation) in the membranes of cells that line your blood vessels; decreased levels of circulating fats, including total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol; and decreased activity of angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE), an enzyme that can increase your risk of high blood pressure. 
  3. Stabilize your blood sugarRegular intake (2-3 servings per week) of strawberries is associated with decreased risk of type 2 diabetes. Blood sugar spikes from consuming table sugar can be reduced by simultaneous consumption of a cup of fresh strawberries. The polyphenols in strawberries may play a major role in helping regulate blood sugar response. One particular type of polyphenol in strawberries—ellagitannins—might have been especially important for this blood sugar-relating benefit. Ellaginannins are polyphenols that are known to inhibit the activity of an enzyme called alpha-amylase. Since this enzyme is responsible for breaking amylose starches into simple sugars, fewer simple sugars might be released into the blood stream when activity of this enzyme is reduced. Tiliroside, a type of flavonoid (called a glycosidic flavonoid) in strawberries, helps regulate blood sugar and blood fats, and helps improve insulin balance, blood sugar balance, and blood fat balance in obese persons with type 2 diabetes.
  4. Prevent cancer. Because chronic inflammation and chronic oxidative stress are often primary factors in the development of cancer, strawberries have cancer risk-lowering properties given their outstanding antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrient content. Anti-cancer benefits from strawberries are best documented in the case of breast, cervical, colon, and esophageal cancer. Among the strawberry phytonutrients, ellagic acid and ellagitannins in strawberry have emerged as anti-cancer substances of special interest. Their ability to lower risk for some forms of cancer may be related to their ability to boost the activity of antioxidant enzymes like catalase or superoxide dismustase, their ability to lessen the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes like cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2), or their ability to lessen expression of the enzyme inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). 
  5. Help you age gracefully. Strawberries may enhance cognitive function (in the form of better object recognition) and motor function (in the form of better balance and coordination of movements) in older individuals, possibly due to the ability of strawberry phytonutrients to lower the presence of pro-inflammatory messaging molecules like nuclear factor kappa-B.
  6. Alleviate inflammation-related diseases. Strawberries may improve inflammatory bowel problems, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Even though strawberries contain relatively small amounts of salicylic acid (an anti-inflammatory compound very similar to the acetylsalicylic acid of aspirin), this naturally-occurring anti-inflammatory substance in strawberries might be partly responsible for decreased inflammation in the digestive tract of people with inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Strawberries may also help to alleviate inflammation-related arthritis (including rheumatoid arthritis), and inflammation-related diseases of the eye (including macular degeneration). 

Nutrients in 100 Grams Fresh Strawberries

Nutrient

Amount

Daily Value

vitamin C

58.8 mg

98%

manganese

0.386 mg

17%

folate

24 µg

6%

carbohydrates

7.7 g

6%

fiber

2.0 g

5%

iron

0.41 mg

5%

vitamin B6

0.047 mg

3.5%

potassium

153 mg

3%

magnesium

13 mg

3%

niacin

0.386 mg

2.5%

pantothenic acid

0.125 mg

2.5%

phosphorus

24 mg

2%

vitamin K

2.2 µg

2%

vitamin E

0.29 mg

2%

riboflavin

0.022 mg

2%

copper

0.048 mg

2%

calcium

16 mg

1.6%

Calories

32

1.5%

fat

0.30 g

1%

zinc

0.14 mg

1%

selenium

0.4 µg

1%

vitamin A

12 IU

0.5%

protein

0.67 g

0.1%

sodium

1 mg

0.04%

cholesterol

0 mg

0%

lutein-zeaxanthin

26 µg

carotene-ß

7 µg

Strawberries are available year-round in the stores but are fresh and plentiful from the spring through the mid-summer.

Select bright, firm, shiny, organic strawberries. Avoid shriveled, dried-up, moldy, soggy strawberries, as well as strawberries grown with pesticides. Unripe berries have green or yellow patches on their surface. Since the berries cease ripening soon after their harvest, they should be avoided as they are likely to be sour and of inferior in quality. The berries are easily perishable; and therefore, should only be purchased a few days prior to use.

Before storing in the refrigerator, remove any berries that got affected by mold or damaged so that they should not spoil others. Place them in a wide bowl or spread out on a plate covered with a paper towel, then cover with plastic wrap. Unwashed, they keep fresh in the refrigerator for a day or two. Use them as early as possible, unless otherwise they are frozen and stored in the freezer compartment.

When you’re ready to use them, rinse strawberries under running water, and let them drain in the colander. If you’re serving them whole, you can leave the stems and green caps on to use as a handle. Otherwise, remove the green cap and stem with a paring knife or a strawberry huller. At this point, you can freeze them by placing the prepared strawberries on a rimmed baking pan lined with waxed paper, leaving plenty of room between berries. Freeze the strawberries until they’re frozen solid, then remove them from the baking sheet and place them in freezer-safe storage bags or containers and return them to the freezer.

You can eat fresh strawberries whole, or sliced onto salads. Frozen strawberries are good in smoothies, sorbets, and salad dressings.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s