Strawberries were known in the Roman Empire as early as 234 B.C. where wild berries were used for medicinal purposes as well as eating. The berry is also indigenous to North America where Native Americans used them as well. Well before 1600, early colonists were impressed with the native way of mixing crushed red berries with cornmeal then baking the mixture for strawberry bread. They adapted the dish and Strawberry Shortcake was born. The name strawberry seems to have unknown origin. Speculation includes: name came from the straw placed around the plants to keep them from freezing in the spring. OR from the fact that the plant produces prolific runners that take root all around the plant, thereby “strewing” the berries from the mother plant. OR that medevial children would string the berries on straws so they could be sold in the market. The scientific name, fragaria, given them reflects their fragrant nature and their relationship to roses, also a member of the fragaria family.
The first fruit to ripen in spring, strawberries are also unique in that their seeds are found on the outside. Although strawberries are available year round in the store, most gardens will produce from early spring through June, the everbearing plants a little longer. Whether in the garden or the store, choose strawberries that are firm, plump, deeply red and shiny. Once picked green berries will not ripen further. Wash firm berries, do not remove the green caps and they will keep for several days in the refrigerator. Longer term storage requires freezing or canning. Strawberries are nutritious with vitamin C, minerals and antioxidants. Fresh strawberries make great additions to salads, fruit trays and kid friendly snacks. Because of their sweet flavor, they make delicious desserts like this quick and pretty mousse. By the way, the mousse freezes nicely as individual dessert pops, too.
If you are a Bavarian milk producer, tying small baskets of wild strawberries to the horns of cattle will entice woodland elves, who are passionately fond of strawberries, to help produce healthy calves and abundance of milk in return. If that seems a bit strange to ponder, perhaps you will appreciate this more . . .
Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.” (Dr. William Butler, 17th century English writer)
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