The strawberry, one of the most popular fruits in the world, comes originally from the Americas. It’s a member of the rose family and is a unique fruit as it has seeds on the outside rather than the inside. The most common varieties are a hybrid of the wild Virginia strawberry (native to the USA) and the Chilean variety (originally from South America).
Native Americans were eating strawberries when the European settlers arrived. Often the crushed berries were mixed with cornmeal and baked into strawberry bread. After trying this bread, colonists developed their own version of the recipe which became the famous strawberry shortcake.
In the 1500s, explorers brought the fruit back to France from Virginia. The Virginian and Chilean varieties were then brought together accidentally about 250 years ago in a botanical garden in France, where a new type of strawberry was born. This is the variety we eat with such gusto in Europe today.
The strawberry was also a symbol for Venus, the goddess of love, because of its red heart shape.
The English word "strawberry" comes from the Anglo-Saxon "streoberie". The word was first spelt in the modern way around 1538.
In 1625 the British Francis Bacon described how ‘strawberry-leaves dying, yield an excellent cordial smell’, suggesting that strawberries were admired as much for their scent as their taste. It is still true that the very smell of the fruiting strawberry plant gets your mouth watering. Indeed the strawberry features in many works of fiction throughout history, including these:
The strawberry grows underneath the nettle
And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best
Neighbour'd by fruit of baser quality.
William Shakespeare, Henry V (c. 1599), Act I, scene 1, line 60.
The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!
Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.
Dr William Butler, 17th Century English Writer
In Britain many regions grow strawberries, including Kent, Devon, Cheshire, Lancashire and Scotland. But of course, the fruit grows equally well in warm and Mediterranean climates of the northern hemisphere. In Europe there are even annual strawberry festivals in the Greek towns of Paradisi and Nea Manolada, and in the French town of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, as well as many in the US. There are also many strawberry fayres in the UK too, from community events to music festivals. In parts of Bavaria, the annual rite of tying small baskets of wild strawberries to the horns of cattle as an offering to elves is still practiced by country folk. Elves are believed to be passionate about strawberries and the offering will mean healthy calves and abundant milk.
It is impossible to mention strawberries without their mouth-wateringly perfect complement, cream. There is something quintessentially British about strawberries. An English summer wouldn’t be the same without a bowl of strawberries drizzled with cream. This delicious combination has been enjoyed for centuries, from kings to commoners. But nowhere is it more iconic than at Wimbledon, the international home of lawn tennis.
Celebrate this decadent fruit. Use our concierge service to add Wimbledon or festival tickets to your holiday itinerary or book a tour around the strawberry growing regions of the world.