Strawberries are a delicious fruit that have been grown in English Gardens for centuries and conjure up that quintessential garden party on the lawn.
Ladies in hats, cups of tea or fresh cold lemonade, thin cucumber or salmon sandwiches and bowls of tempting fresh fragrant strawberries and cream.
They are an essential ingredient in many village fetes and it is well known that each year at Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London about 27,000 kilos of strawberries are eaten!
Strawberries in history
The Romans grew strawberries as early as 200 BC - they thought strawberries would help to cure many diseases including fainting, fevers, throat infections, diseases of the blood and the liver.
In mediaeval England strawberries were thought to be an aphrodisiac. Dishes made from strawberries, borage and soured cream were traditionally given to newly-weds!
Edward the First of England was the first King on record to have had strawberries planted in his gardens. In Tudor times Henry V111 was very fond of strawberries and the playwright George Peele wrote a song linking strawberries with summer and delight.
"When as the rye reach to the chin,
And chopcherry, chopcherry, ripe within,
Strawberties swimming in the cream,
And schoolboys playing in the stream..."
As you might expect Shakespeare mentions strawberries
"When I was last in Holborn,
I saw good strawberries in your garden there:
I do beseech you send for some of them. . . "
Says the Duke of Gloucester in Act III, Scene 4, of Richard-III (1597)
In the 17th Century Dr. William Butler wrote
“Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.”
The name strawberry comes from the Old English streowberie or streawbelige. It became streabergen, straibery, and finally 'strawberry’. It is possible that this name came from the strawberry’s habit of producing straying runners, or even to the tiny straw-like seeds that are on the outside of the fruit.
Srawberries are an easy fruit to grow.
They can be grown in borders, vegetable patches, containers or hanging baskets. They have lovely foliage, white flowers and of course delicious fruits which are full of goodness.
The best time to plant strawberry plants is the end of August through to the end of September. This will allow you pick your own strawberries the following year. Make sure you buy virus free plants – these are best bought from a fruit specialist.
Plant them so that the crown of the plant is just at soil level (if you plant them too deep they will rot away). Water them in well and stand back and wait.
Once your strawberries have flowered in the spring you need to be on the lookout for slugs and snails!
When you see the first little white fruits appear pop a layer of straw under them, this helps to lift the fruit off the ground away from the slugs and snails. You can also buy little strawberry mats to put around the plants.
One advantage of growing strawberries in containers or hanging baskets is that it gets them further away from these snails and slugs. Birds who also enjoy the fruits seem to avoid containers more.
As the fruit develops make sure they do not go short of water. Then all you have to do is pick the ripe fruit and enjoy them sitting in the garden.
Enjoy your garden!