Strawberries

 

Fragaria × ananassa (the root of modern strawberry varieties) is a cross breed of a Chilean and North American strawberry. In the 18th Century farmers in France noticed that when they planted rows of the Chilean strawberries between the American ones they grew much larger and with a good sweet flavour. The size and taste reminded them of pineapples (in French l’anasas) and so Frangaria x ananassa was born. 

Wikipedia states that the entire strawberry plant was used to treat depression hundreds of years ago (although I can’t find the original reference for this). Scientists in Indonesia have now shown that strawberries do indeed boost serotonin and dopamine levels in mice and reduce depressive behaviours induced by stressful situations (they spend more time swimming and less time stagnant whilst trapped in a pool of water, compared with control mice who haven’t eaten strawberries).  

Hieronymus Bosch used strawberries as symbols of fleeting and dangerous pleasure in his Garden of Earthly Delights painting (image at the top). This may have been because most fruits were not eaten raw at the time as it was considered safer to cook them or preserve them, however strawberries were enjoyed fresh from the plant. Thomas Wolsey is often given credit for inventing serving strawberries with cream; however it is much more likely to have been a chef at Henry VIII’s Hampton Court who was required to feed 600 courtiers twice a day. Hampton Court was commissioned by Wolsey in 1514 and completed in 1540. At the time dairy products were considered to be foods for the poor and so giving cream to courtiers was likely to have been considered a bold move. At the time strawberries were available in green, red and white however these days it is very hard to find the green and white ones as they are often smaller and less sweet, although new varieties are now becoming more available commercially. 

Strawberries contain lots of vitamin C (this is why they are reported to help whiten teeth by fighting yellow plaque!). They also contain Omega 3 acids which can be difficult to find for vegetarians (although blackberries and raspberries contain more) and antioxidants. They are antiinflammatory and help fight acne and wrinkles when applied to the face. 

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