Tuesday, May 27, 2008


One of the highlights of early summer is the sweet juicy taste of a fresh picked strawberry.
Strawberries are members of the Rose family (Rosaceae, genus Fragaria) which also includes other fragrant and flavourful species such as apples, pears, plums and cherries. Originally the succulent berries were called strew-berries for the way the runners and berries grew strewn across the ground. However, as so often happens with the English language, the name gradually evolved to strawberries.

Strawberries are not really berries or fruit in the "botanical" sense (i.e., the end result of a fertilized plant ovum). A strawberry is actually an "aggregate fruit" -- the "real" fruit are the objects we think of as the "strawberry seed" -- properly called "achenes" -- which are fruits in the same way that a raw sunflower seed with it's tough shell is a fruit. The "berry" is actually an "enlarged receptacle" and is not reproductive material. As a result, strawberries must be picked at full ripeness, as they cannot not ripen once picked.

Rich in vitamin C, iron, potassium and fiber strawberries have also been credited as having cancer fighting compounds. For hundreds of years homeopathic practitioners have incorporated strawberry plants and fruit in the treatment of anemia, diabetes, rheumatic gout, and kidney and liver complaints. Fresh strawberry removes tarter and teeth stains, soothes sunburn and lightens freckles. Strawberry liqueurs, preserves and jellies are widely used worldwide. The average American consumes more than 1.4 kg. (3lb.) of strawberries per year.

There are different categories of strawberries. The ones most commonly found in our hemisphere are the long-day-type. They flower in response to the long daylight hours of June, fruit in July then flower again, usually yielding little or no fruit from the second flowering.