Strawberries are a popular summer fruit. They share the season’s bounty basket with cherries, apples, pears, peaches and nectarines (and others). Ironically, though, the strawberry really isn’t a fruit. It’s a member of the Rosaceae (Rose) family. Most of us are more familiar with the Fragaria strawberry which has a perfumed flesh.
Even though it lacks a fruit card-carrying membership, it is anything but shy of foodlore!
Take its name, for example. The word strawberry is believed to have been derived from the words strewn berry because the berries were strewn among the leaves of the plants. Over time strewn berry became pronounced as strawberry (in much the same way that over time sparrow’s grass became known as asparagus).
During medieval times the strawberry was considered as a symbol of wealth and well-being. As a result they were a desired commodity.
Long considered by Europeans to be a beauty and health aid, folklore records note that in France the nobility used to bathe in strawberries to keep their skin glowing and clear. Many people today still use them for treating skin rashes and sun burn.
But true to the nature of folklore in which something like the strawberry can have different meanings to different cultures, the strawberry was considered hazardous in certain parts of South America.
The Seneca Indians linked strawberries to spring and rebirth because they were the year’s first fruit. As such they hold a special place in the culture and, therefore, bring good health.
And, of course, there are the Roman legends about strawberries. Most commonly, that when Adonis died, Venus wept tears that dropped to the earth and became heart shaped strawberries.
From growing to harvesting to preserving and presenting, strawberries certainly have, over the centuries, captured the minds and hearts of many people.
It’s pretty amazing to think that such a small fruit can hold so much foodlore. But consider this: food is an essential life ingredient and as a result has been the topic of many conversations and stories.