strawberries

The history of the strawberry

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Strawberries are a staple summertime favourite. Whether you enjoy them on their own, in a fruit salad, dotted in a trifle or any other delicious concoction, there’s no denying that we’re a nation of strawberry eaters. When the sun is shining, there’s nothing better than snacking on these sweet berries and we can even deem them healthy, thanks to their high Vitamin C content!

With all this in mind, we thought we’d take a look back at the history of the humble strawberry, as well as discovering where our age-old Wimbledon tradition of strawberries and cream comes from. We’ve also rounded up some top tips for growing your very own delicious red treats so you can enjoy their sweetness fresh from the garden.

Bon appetit! Or should that be ‘good eating’?!

Origins

lifestyle 1The garden strawberry we eat and enjoy today is widely grown all over the world but the first was bred in Brittany, France, during the late 18th century. Before this, wild strawberries were the most common form of fruit in the strawberry family.

Reference to the wild variety dates as far back as the ancient Roman Empire, where they were revered for their medicinal uses (amongst them, curing labour pains and bad breath!), and from the 14th century onwards, the French began taking the sweet fruit from the forest to their gardens for harvesting. France’s King Charles V was said to be a big fan, with a rumoured 1200 strawberry plants in his royal garden.

By the 16th century, the strawberry was becoming more widely recognised and in England, the demand for regular strawberry farming began to soar, cementing it as a firm favourite in the Brits’ picnic baskets for hundreds of years to come.

Why strawberries and cream?

strawberries and creamNothing goes better with tennis than strawberries and cream. During the summer’s Wimbledon tournament, we reportedly get through more than 23 tonnes of strawberries and a whopping 7000 litres of cream! Both refreshing and naughty in equal measure, there’s just something inexplicably good about enjoying a thrilling game with a bowl of this sweet treat nestled into our laps. But where did the tradition begin?

Frustratingly, there is no definitive answer but it is thought that Cardinal Thomas Wolsey first served the delectable dish at a banquet in 1509. It soon became a feature of the fashionable afternoon tea which was enjoyed by aristocracy and high society members alike, a tradition which was still alive and well in 1877 when the first Wimbledon tournament took place. The dish was served to great acclaim and has remained a mainstay of the sporting event ever since.

Whatever its origin, we can’t think of anything better to enjoy on a hot summer’s afternoon in one of South West London’s most salubrious districts.

How to grow your own

Mouths watering yet? Ours certainly are!

lifestyle 2Whilst supermarkets ensure we can have our fix of strawberries faster than you can say “Two punnets, please”, there’s nothing like tucking into something that you’ve grown yourself. Read on for our top growing tips and where you can get your very own crop.

  • Best planted in the spring or autumn, strawberry plants largely prefer a part-sunny, part-sheltered position in your garden in fertile, free-draining soil, although this can differ depending on variety.
  • They need plenty of space and should be planted around 45cm (18″) apart in rows spaced 75cm (30″) apart.
  • If you’re growing your plants in a pot, make sure the top of the compost is level with the soil surface as if planted too deeply, the strawberries can rot.

Our pick of the best:

If you’re looking to add vibrant colour to your garden, why not give this plug plant collection, also from Plants2Gardens, a go? Flowering from April to May, these three striking varieties produce pink, white and red flowers, as well as very large fruit; perfect for adding the wow factor to your floral display… and kitchen concoctions!

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So what are you waiting for? It’s time to head out and plant those berries!

Do you have any favourite strawberry recipes or dishes? Perhaps you’ve discovered a fool-proof way to grow your very own crop? Post a comment below with all your ‘berry brilliant’ ideas; we can’t wait to see them.

Don’t forget to check out our Seasonal Recipes page with delicious recipe ideas that are guaranteed to get you inspired.

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