Summer in the sunny South of France, stands for devouring those vibrantly red, succulent heavenly treats, smelling as sweet as they taste: strawberries. No wonder they’re part of the rose family.
In a region full of history, we see them all around us, their designs carved by medieval stonemasons, on altars, around tops of pillars in churches and cathedrals, symbolizing perfection and righteousness. Ask the French they’ll tell you, from the 13th century on, it was “the” soup, served cold to newlyweds, being thought to be an aphrodisiac.
The French already cultivated them in 1300 for use as a medicinal herb and the very first garden strawberry was here already growing in the late 18th century. In 1713, a French engineer commissioned to Chile and Peru, smitten by their large native strawberries, decided to bring back some, to cultivate in France, which resulted in the modern garden strawberry.
Technically they are receptacles (the thickened part of a stem) rather than berries and what we call seeds, on their outside, are actually their very own dry fruit. An average berry is adorned with some 200 of them!
The Romans loved strawberries and we now know why: packed with antioxidants, the source of vitamins C and K, dosed with fibres, folic acid, manganese and potassium. And ladies, their red colour contains anthocyanins, excellent to stimulate the burning of stored fat! One small strawberry equals 2 calories, you’ll easily get those away with 1 min walking.
They are a nothing but goodness for us humans: easing inflammation, boosting short term memory, lowering cardiovascular diseases, promoting bone health, having anti-aging properties, promoting eye health, fighting bacteria that contribute to tooth decay and gum disease, ideal for weight loss, and many more!
Strawberries are the angels of the earth, innocent & sweet with green leafy wings reaching heavenward. Jasmine Heiler
Then again some people (my dad) are ever so allergic to them (certainly when you’re allergic to birch pollen). People with gallbladder or kidney problems, might better stay away from them too.
Don’t worry if you can’t taste them, you can follow Madame Tallien (a prominent figure at the court of Napoleon) and bath in the juice of fresh strawberries, that is if you have 22 pounds per basin as she did… so better forget a daily bath!
The last few years, supermarket strawberries tend to be nothing but a visual illusion, causing utter disappointment for our palate. Knowing that some of the riskiest pesticides in agriculture are used to grow strawberries, not necessary ending up on the fruit itself, but quite dangerous for farmers and environment, we started planting our own last year. We had quite a nice harvest, but chose the wrong place, as to some of our dogs it’s not “giving a donkey strawberries”, they think they’re “berry” good and eat them before we have chance, if we don’t watch out!
On the net I discovered an article written by Steven Willis, turning the strawberries’ plants into a landscape ornamental and this way of planting seems to be a promise of an abundant harvest. So we fancied giving that idea a try and followed his advice.
We even added his advised few companion plants: nasturtiums
Strawberries, being a perennial , if we plant them now, will be productive for the next five years.
Having given them our most sunniest spot, we can’t wait to consume them, freshly picked on a sunny dry afternoon, when their pinkish-red colour is most vibrant. Their flavour compounds, continue to develop significantly after picking and these delights will even be healthier waiting a few days.
For those of you searching for love, it is said that if you find a double strawberry, you’d better break it in half and share it with “the one” and love will install itself. They are the symbol for Venus, Goddess of Love, because of their heart shape and red colour.
If you’re not a gardener you can do as Desdemona in Shakespeare’s Othello, carry them around on a decorated handkerchief.
Meanwhile we’ll be awaiting the pleasure of harvesting and then enjoying their deep juicy sweetness, in let’s hope abundant supply, we might even indulge in having strawberries and champagne…
Ps: Did you know that Belgium has a museum dedicated to strawberries (Wépion near Namur) offering a wide range of strawberry products, from jam to beer.