Strawberry Planting Lessons
By Alejandra Tolley
I can embarrassingly and confidently say that I have had a strawberry-infused tea nearly every day for the past six years. So I’m pretty confident the red in my blood is at least 40% coloring from the strawberries that I delightfully consume daily. As a matter of fact, the other day, while I was strolling along the dollar section in Target, I saw an upside-down dusty ceramic strawberry mug. I quickly threw it into my cart, purchased it, and walked out within minutes. It now sits on top of my kitchen cabinet, where the morning sun hits it perfectly. So yeah, strawberries are something I love to eat, drink, and use to decorate. Let’s get into the origins of these little seedy vitamin c carriers.
These heart-shaped berries hold sacred symbolism dating back to Ancient Roman times. The Romans would use their romantic shape to represent Venus, the Goddess of Love, and carve strawberry tracings above pillars located in holy palaces to signify perfection and nobility. Along with the high-ranking status of their shape, color, and taste, the Romans also valued their medicinal properties in aiding kidney stones. As for today, strawberries are a great source of Vitamin C. You may also see different skincare products with strawberry-based ingredients, which can be an excellent gentle exfoliant.
Strawberries are also deeply appreciated by North American Indigenous peoples, especially tribes in the Eastern region. These Tribes celebrate the “Strawberry Moon,” the beginning point for the berry’s bloom every June. The Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts and The Connecticut River Powwow Society hold a festival to commemorate this event for their community where over 10,000 attendees can enjoy different sweet strawberry goodies. The strawberry is indeed a versatile hostess loved by everyone.
As a member of the rose family, Fragaria x ananassa is the hybrid name for the type of strawberries we see most often. The well-known conical, studdy fruit results from two different species cross-seeding. The Chilen native species, Fragaria chiloensis and the North American native species Fragaria virginiana. Due to the transportation of both species to France in 1750, a strong possibility of hybridizing species arose. The new berry, coined “Garden strawberries,” was born. It remains the most familiar variety we know today. The plant will breed strawberries from tiny white flowers sending runners (a horizontal stem) to propagate.
With a new hybridized flower, the cultivated era of strawberries began and took off during the 18th century. What was initially a dessert made for the affluent soon began getting shipped around the country in refrigerated railroad carts.
There are multiple stories of how the name “Strawberry” came about. Due to their accessibility and taste, strawberries were mainly at open markets.
Many started describing the fruit when they saw them sold on grass straws or when folks would chew the berries off a straw.
As someone who eats and drinks strawberries in some capacity every day, I notice when one is a little sweeter or juicer. Maybe it’s because there are over 600 varieties of them. That’s a lot of sweet, heart-shaped goodness. Though they are grown worldwide, 75% of the berries are harvested and produced in California, resulting in nearly 3 billion pounds. Most of them are along the West Coast near Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, and Nothern Santa Barbara.
Smaller strawberries tend to be sweeter, while bigger berries have more flavor. Though there are hundreds of flavors in a strawberry, there are a select few that come through our grocery stores year-round.
Hood Strawberries - Grown in Oregon, this berry is ideally made for sweets and desserts for the Pacific Northwest.
American Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) - These little juicy berries are smaller but have an abundance of sweet flavor.
Jewel Strawberries: It is more firm to the touch, and instead of the traditional conical shape, it curves to be more wedged. Due to the high quality of this shiny berry, markets favor it for its large size and color.
Tristar Strawberries: This berry is ideal for smoothie lovers. Tristar berries are great for eating fresh and freezing. The firm surface and hollow inside maintain the sweet flavor, and they produce all summer long.
Sparkle Strawberries: This variety has been around for more than 60 years, and their flavor justifies it. It’s mainly known for its ability to make sweet jams and have a late-ripening season.
I sit here with my iced strawberry matcha as I write this piece. From the week worth of research I threw myself into, I’m going to guess this is the Rosa Linda strawberry because of its intense aroma. Or maybe it’s one of the other 599 varieties- who knows, what I do know is that these juicy little fruits have significantly enhanced my life and will remain an integral part of my everyday routine. I hope this encourages you to explore the different flavors and aspects this noble berry offers!
American Indian Health and Diet Project
Strawberries Varieties Explained
A Brief History of the Strawberry
Strawberries: A Brief History
History of the Strawberry
Strawberry Facts and History
Strawberry Varieties: The Complete Guide