Summer is nearly upon us, and with it early summer brings a joyful load of soft fruits that gives our country a beautiful, & shiny, red, pink purple and blue explosion, with the bonus of heavenly aromas, and gorgeous flavours that can be scoffed raw, or cooked, blended together with pastry, cream patisseries, ice creams or meringues of many flavours, or just enjoyed on their own.
This blog is about one of our favourites- the humble strawberry. Long associated with English summers, Wimbledon, the smell of freshly mown grass and cream [lashings of it!], the humble strawberry with its multitude of varieties, are grown on every continent. The Californian people have over 80,000 acres dedicated to growing them, in fact, the Americans and Chinese now account for growing 60% of the annual crop. Paul Hollywood famously ate a single strawberry in his recent documentary series "Paul Hollywood Eats Japan" that cost £350! So this humble fruit has much of the modern world at its feet.
However, in researching this blog I have not really managed to answer the two most obvious questions: Where did the strawberry originate & why are they called strawberries?
The strawberry as we know it today, was first bred in Brittany, France, in the 1750s by cross breeding a Chilean variety and a Northern American one. Before I hear shouting in my direction, in Europe we have also always had strawberries (they are mentioned in Roman text c250BCE), they are smaller, packed full of flavour but no where near as sweet. I am pretty sure we have been grazing on them for millennia, and long may we continue to do so.
The naming of the strawberry has many a theory. I personally agree with the theory that the name derives itself from the fact they used to be called strewn-berries, because of the way that they sent out runners from plant to plant to plant. As I also believe that the use of straw was for the larger, newer 'garden' strawberry varieties, that fruits were (are) so heavy they need a little cradling. Another theory is that people in "ye olden days" used to thread them onto straw for ease of getting them to market with little damage. Not so sure about that one, myself!
Gooey Puds loves a good strawberry. The British Strawberry Panna Cotta is back on the menu, thank goodness, it is a slightly guilty treat if ever there was one! Also, the Delicious Strawberry Trifle, that first graced the Gooey Puds stand at the Jubilee Foodie Friday @elymarkets and has been back almost weekly due to popular demand.
No matter how you eat them though - Yay for Strawberries!