By Samantha Semoso – EMTV Online
The Strawberry, or Fragaria, is one of the most popular fruits in the world. There are more than 10 species of Fragaria that differ in flavour, size and texture. Yet, they all have the same characteristic heart-shaped, red flesh that we associate best with the humble strawberry.
Strawberries are not actually fruits, as their seeds are on the outside. Strawberry plants are runners, and are not produced by seeds. They have an average of 200 seeds per fruit and are actually a member of the rose (rosacea) family.
Strawberries have a long history, and have been enjoyed since Roman times. Native to many parts of the world, hundreds of varieties of strawberries exist thanks to crossbreeding techniques. In 1714, a French engineer commissioned to Chile and Peru observed that the strawberry native to those regions was much larger than those found in Europe.
He decided to bring a sample of this strawberry back to France for cultivation. The end result was a large, juicy sweet hybrid (the modern garden strawberry) that became extremely popular in Europe.
Like many other fruits, strawberries make their claim in history as a luxury item enjoyed only by royalty. It has been alleged that newlyweds were entitled to strawberries with soured cream as breakfast, believing them to be an aphrodisiac.
Strawberries are an excellent source of Vitamins C and K, as well as providing a good dose of fibre, folic acid, manganese and potassium. They also contain significant amounts of phytonutrients and flavonoids which gives them their bright red colour.
They have been used throughout history in a medicinal context to help with digestive aliments, teeth whitening and skin irritations. Their fibre and fructose content may help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing digestion, and the fibre is thought to have a satiating effect. Leaves can be eaten raw, cooked or used to make tea.
The vibrant red colour of strawberries is due to large amounts of anthocyanin, which also means they contain powerful antioxidants and are thought to help protect against inflammation, cancer and heart disease.
In selecting berries, be sure to choose berries that are firm, plump, unblemished and free of mould. Look for those that are shiny, have a deep red colour and bright green caps attached. Once picked, strawberries do not ripen further so avoid those that have green or yellow patches. Wash and handle them with care. Bring to room temperature before serving.