Berry Good News!
Oh go on please do- help yourself.... at only fifty calories per hundred grammes of strawberries you can afford to go completely and utterly wild!
I hear the glad tidings that this year is meant to be a bumper year for strawberries. I am thrilled at this news as we have both cultivated and wild self seeded ones growing in our postage stamp sized garden. I leave the latter for the birds, but we do net the former so that we can start to enjoy the odd bowl full as our crop increases. This is the first year so it really is a few per day, but it's a cracking start and I am most hearty about the state of affairs. That got me thinking- beyond a few culinary ideas about this humble little berry we all take for granted at this time of year I know next to nothing about it. As ever I aim to address that just a little here.
The earliest mention of the strawberry appears in ancient Rome in 200BC. The Romans believed they could alleviate the symptoms of melancholy, fainting, all inflammations, fevers, throat infections , kidney stones, bad breath amongst others.
It is not certain where the name "strawberry" derives from but theories have suggested it is from the Anglo Saxon strew meaning to spread. It is only from 1538 that it is spelt in its current form- until then it was written down as streoberie. The berry not only comes in red but also white and yellow and one variety tastes of pineapple. During the Victorian era there were far more varieties available than we have today- rather charmingly these are taken from William Cobbett's The English Gardener , the Kew Pine, Chili and Hautbois to name a few.
A few quirky bits of trivia for you that my rootling around has turned up:
-Bavarian country folk tie small baskets of wild strawberries to the horns of their cattle as an offering to the elves
-Anne Boleyn had a strawberry shaped birthmark on her neck which, some believed, proved she was a witch
-To symbolise perfection and righteousness medieval stonemasons carved strawberry designs on altars and pillar tops in churches and cathedrals
-The 12th century Saint Hildegard of Bingen warned that strawberries were unfit to eat because they may have been contaminated by snakes and toads due to them growing so close to the ground.
- The French believed the strawberry was an aphrodisiac so they made a soup of them along with thinned sour cream, borage and powdered sugar and gave it to newly weds.
-The Native Americans called the fruit "heart-seed berries" and pounded them into their traditional cornmeal bread. The Colonists were so taken with the flavour that they then invented the strawberry shortcake.
-It was believed that if you broke a double strawberry in half and shared it with a member of the opposite sex then you would fall in love with them.
To conclude in the words of Dr William Butler, a 17th century writer:
"Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did"
I couldn't have put it better myself....
PS Please forgive my ill breeding and lack of manners- it goes without saying that if you fancy a sausage roll, slice of cake or apple pie do tuck in. Honestly my first outing out as the blogger hostess with the mostest and I have fallen at the first hurdle. I am off to study my Debrett's Guide to Etiquette....