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History of Strawberries

Shashank Nakate Feb 14, 2020
One of the most popular fruits of today, the strawberry is basically a North American plant. Its popularity grew after the European settlers started strawberry trade with the native Americans.
The strawberry plant is a member of the Rosaceae family and the genus Fragaria. Against the common belief that strawberry is a fruit, the fleshy red outgrowth is actually the receptacle of the strawberry flower.
Thus, it is also known as a 'false fruit'. The commercial strawberry is formed by crossing two wild American varieties, i.e., Fragaria virginiana (eastern meadow strawberry) and Fragaria chiloensis (beach strawberry).
Strawberry is cultivated on a large scale in the state of California in the United States. Around 25,000 acres of land are under strawberry cultivation in the States. California produces around 80% that is consumed in the United States. Several varieties are also found in Europe.

Origin of the Word 'Strawberry'

The name 'strawberry', that it holds, is derived from a farmer's practice of mulching the plant with straw for retaining the moisture, dissuading the growth of pests, and keeping the berries neat and fresh for picking.
There is one more theory about the origin of the word. Strawberries being abundant in nature were not cultivated as a cash crop. Strawberries strewn among fallen leaves were a common sight in olden days. This might have led to the development of the word strawberry from the two words, 'strewn' and 'berries'.
One explanation relies on a specific meaning of 'straw' which is a particle of chaff or straw, suggesting the appearance of tiny yellow seeds spread over the surface of the berry.
In England, children used to pick strawberries scattered in the wild and sell them in local markets. In order to handle them properly, the strawberries were tied to pieces of straws.

History of Strawberries

The history goes back over 2,200 years. The growth of wild strawberries in Italy can be traced back to 234 BC.
Latin writers such as Apulius had cited the strawberry for its medicative purposes. Other writers such as Virgil and Ovid mentioned strawberry only in association with other wild fruits. Pliny (23-79 A.D.) was the last-known writer to mention this fruit.
In the thirteenth century, a famous Greek doctor 'Nicholas Myrepsus' had mentioned it in his paintings.

Strawberry was in cultivation in Europe by the 1300s, as the French began transplanting the wood variety to the garden.

Early Varieties in America

Many new varieties of the strawberry were developed in the 1700s, in North America. The varieties that developed from the cross breeding of American and European strawberries were known for their sweet taste and perfect size.
Since the fruit was easily available and abundant in the wild, the local Americans didn't cultivate it commercially. It was only after the demand from the European settlers that the native Americans started its cultivation.
Commercial strawberry production began in 1800. Only selections of the native Fragaria virginiana were raised till 1840.

In 1858, the native Virginian varieties were being replaced by Wilson (a hard and large-fruited strawberry).

This innovation expanded the production to other cities such as Florida, Louisiana, and Oregon.


In ancient Europe, in Rome, the fruit was grown for the formulation of different types of medicines.

In France too, berries were used for medicinal purposes. The strawberries that grew in the Alpines were used to treat digestive problems and skin diseases. Roots and leaves of the strawberry plant along with fruits were used in these treatments.
Madam Thérésa Tallien popularized the use of strawberries in cosmetics and facial treatments. A wealthy socialite from France, Theresa Tallien used to scatter sliced strawberries in bath water. She claimed that 'strawberry bath' protected her from any kind of skin problems.
The 20th century saw the advent of strawberry cosmetics on a large scale. This fruit is widely used in shampoos, moisturizers, cleansers, soaps, etc.
Carolus Linnaeus, the famous taxonomist, had recommended the use of strawberries for rheumatic gout and bowel cleansing. However, the studies that were conducted later didn't prove the efficacy of Linnaeus' prescription.
Strawberry is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (these assist in delaying aging).

They are known to possess anti-inflammatory properties because of the high content of phytonutrients (non-nutritive plant chemicals containing disease-preventing components).
The fact that strawberry contains less calories makes it an excellent food for diabetics and patients in general.
This fruit is grown in many parts of the world. Basically, a crop grown in temperate countries, it is now adapted to various tropical climates. In India, strawberry is mostly grown in Nainital and Mahabaleshwar. It has also been successfully grown in the plain regions along the hilly areas. The sweet and tasty fruit, strawberry has many qualities which make it a popular and also a nutritious fruit. It is thus a wonderful fruit on earth.