Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.
A Tale of Three Strawberries
There once was a plant (Fragaria moschata) that grew wild throughout Europe. Respected for its fragrance and heralded in Roman literature, it was cultivated but not domesticated. Dubbed the “woodland strawberry,” it bore small pithy fruits and was decidedly more decorative than delectable, lovely but unloveable.
There was another similar plant, a distant cousin of sorts that grew across the ocean, on another continent. In the 1500s explorers from Europe discovered F. virginiana. It was similar to the woodland strawberry but was more productive, a deeper shade of red, and lusciously sweet and juicy. One might think that this would be the end of the story, that the woodland berry and the Virginia berry were blended to create the fruit we enjoy today, but no. Keep reading.
There was yet another discovery in the New World; in 1712 a Frenchman by the name of Amédée-François Frézier found a third species (F. chiloensis) growing in Concepción. Though separated by thousands of miles, this second western hemisphere berry was genetically akin to the first—it’s assumed that migratory birds ate and spread the seeds of F. virginiana to the coast of Chile where it not only survived but thrived. In the lush climate, the tiny Virginia strawberry became bold and beautiful, large enough to capture the attention of Frézier who wrote they were “As big as a walnut, and sometimes as a Hen’s egg.” He returned home in 1714 with five of the plants.
Two were gifted to the superintendent of the cargo ship on which Frézier sailed, one was given to his supervisor, and one to the head of the Royal Garden in Paris. Frézier kept the fifth one for himself. The plants grew, they sent out happy runners and they multiplied, but none of them bore fruit. The problem? They were dioecious—a single-sex plant. Since Frézier had selected only plants that bore fruit, he selected the female of the species.
This might have been the end of our story, but along came Antoine Nicolas Duchesne, a French botanist who, 100 years before Darwin, was observing and writing on variations within species and genetic mutations. In 1764 he presented a pot of Chilean strawberries to the reigning monarch, Louis XV. The berries were perfectly formed, large, and succulent—such beautiful specimens that the king commanded that an illustration of them be made for the royal library.
A Happy Ending
How did Duchesne find (or create) these amazing strawberries? He introduced the Chilean species to the shy little wild European Fragaria moschata. In a garden in France, they had a mad passionate fling and produced a hybrid.
Duchesne named the offspring Fragaria ananassa, the pineapple strawberry, because “the perfume of the fruit is closely similar to the pineapple.” Like its Chilean parent, the fruits were large and flavorful, but like its European pater familias it was deep red in color. And, joy of joys, it was self-fertile, so every plant could fertilize itself.
How to Grow Strawberries
Hardiness: Zones 3 to 10
Soil Requirements: Loamy, well-draining with a pH between 6 and 7
Light: Full sun
Planting Depth: The crown of the plant should sit just on top of the soil
Watering: Keep well-watered until established.
Read More From Delishably
There are a few rules to consider in maintaining a strawberry patch:
- Even though strawberries will return year after year, they are most productive in the first two to five years.
- It is best to buy replacement (new) starter plants each year to ensure healthy, disease-free berries.
- Don’t plant in areas of the garden that eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, or potatoes have recently inhabited. They are all prone to verticillium wilt, which can also infect strawberries.
1. Chocolate Covered Strawberry Brownies
Chocolate covered strawberry brownies will be one of the easiest recipes in your collection. You can use your favorite brownie recipe or brownies-from-a-box (no judgment here). Just be sure to use a recipe or box that fills a 9x13-inch baking pan.
Store these in the refrigerated once they are baked and cooled. They are best when eaten in a day or two.
2. Fresh Strawberry Bundt Cake
This super moist fresh strawberry bundt cake is the perfect way to celebrate juicy berries. It’s thick, soft, and packed full of fresh strawberries that weep pink tears down each tender slice. The yogurt and lemon create a wonderful tangy balance to its sweetness. This cake slices well and stays moist for several days (or so I've heard). Although it's never lasted that long in my kitchen.
3. Strawberry Cinnamon Rolls
There is no way to improve on the cinnamon roll, is there? Flaky, buttery bread rolled with a filling so that there are layers and layers of cinnamon and sugar. This recipe will turn your breakfast roll world upside down. In 90 minutes you can have fresh-from-the-oven strawberry cinnamon rolls flavored with strawberry jam and fresh berries. You'll never want to go back to plain old cinnamon rolls again.
4. Strawberry Oatmeal Bars
Loaded with fresh strawberries and sweetened with banana, these strawberry oatmeal bars are an easy, healthy, gluten-free breakfast with just four ingredients.
5. Strawberry Pretzel Salad
Unless you are from the Midwest or have attended church potlucks, the name "pretzel salad" might surprise you. Sometime in the mid-1960s, the creative geniuses in the kitchens of Jello brand gelatin conceived of this sweet-salty "we'll call it a salad but it's really a dessert" salad. This strawberry pretzel salad can be made any time of year with a package of frozen berries.
6. Strawberry Crumb Bars
The recipe for these strawberry crumb bars is easy peasy—one mix of flour, sugar, and butter is divided to make the crust and the crumb topping. A few people who left comments noted that they had successfully used frozen berries. Yes, that's a great option in the "non-fresh-strawberry" time of year; be sure to drain those berries, okay?
7. Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos
Mahi mahi (also called dorado) is a sustainable, deep-water fish with firm white flesh but a very mild flavor; it's the fish that fish-haters like. Because it's so mild-flavored and "un-fishy" mahi mahi is adaptable to a wide spectrum of flavor profiles—in other words, it goes with just about everything.
A simple 15-minute marinade makes the fish filets smoky and spicy. Wrap the fish in soft, warm corn tortillas and top with a refreshing sweet and tangy pineapple-strawberry salsa. These mahi mahi fish tacos are bursting with flavor and texture (did I mention the avocado crema?) and are so colorful they're almost too pretty to eat.
8. Pork Chops With Balsamic-Strawberry Sauce
Pork is often paired with fruit—pork chops with spiced apples or ham with pineapple are as natural a combination as peanut butter and jelly, right? Had you ever considered using strawberries? They're naturally sweet and juicy but also have a little bit of tartness. Mixed with a good balsamic they create a tantalizing sweet/savory sauce for these pork chops with balsamic-strawberry sauce.
9. Seared Salmon With Strawberry Basil Relish
Like the mahi mahi in the above recipe, salmon is another seafood that "plays well with others." Although it has a more assertive fish flavor, it pairs equally well with sweet or spicy condiments. Seared salmon with strawberry basil relish can be baked or broiled in less than 30 minutes to create a lovely summer evening meal for friends and family.
10. Grilled Chicken With Spicy Strawberry BBQ Sauce
Fresh strawberries are blended with strawberry spread to make this slightly sweet and tangy grilled chicken with spicy strawberry barbecue sauce; habanero peppers add a little kick. Because this is a sweet sauce it will burn easily, so don't add it until your chicken is already ready to serve.
11. Strawberry Caprese Salad
Strawberries sub for tomatoes in this classic Italian salad. The sweetness of strawberries shines when paired with mozzarella, basil, and balsamic. Turn this strawberry caprese salad into a main dish with wild rice, arugula, and toasted walnuts.
12. Strawberry Infused Sea Scallops
This is the most imaginative preparation of scallops I have ever seen; strawberry infused sea scallops have a delicate sweet flavor and beautiful rose color from a simple marinade of lemon juice, lime juice, and strawberry jam. This would be a stunning dish to prepare for a special occasion.
- The strawberry is the only fruit with seeds on the outside, hence it isn’t classified as a true berry.
- The average strawberry has 200 seeds.
- Strawberries (along with apples and plums) are in the rose family.
- One serving (about eight berries) supplies more Vitamin C than an orange.
- English and French gardeners added strawberry plants to their landscape for their ornamental value.
- In the 14th century, King Charles V ordered 1,200 strawberry plants to be planted at the Royal Gardens of the Louvre.
- California produces one billion pounds of strawberries each year.
- In the United States, strawberries are grown in every state of the union.
- May is National Strawberry Month.
© 2021 Linda Lum