Strawberries can be grown in a wide range of climates ranging from temperate climates to cooler positions in tropical areas; and are well suited to growing as a greenhouse crop anywhere if temperature conditions are controlled.
They are a significant large crop in many countries and a popular crop for home gardeners the world over. More than 3.5 million tonnes of strawberries were produced in 75 countries in 2005.
The strawberry has been a popular fruit for thousands of years. Archaeologists have found strawberry seeds at Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Iron Age sites, indicating that early man ate strawberries. The wild strawberry Fragaria vesca was gathered by Stone Age man in Europe, its berries are much smaller than the strawberries cultivated today, however their flavour was exquisite.
The name ‘Strawberry’ is believed to have come from the fact that strawberries were cultivated on a bed of straw. When the berries were harvested they were sometimes strung on a blade of straw and sold as a ‘straw of berries’. Another theory of the origin of the name strawberry came from the fact that the strawberry plant produces runners that spread and it’s berries were strewn about the ground ‘strewn-berries’.
The strawberries earliest mention in English is in a Saxon plant list of the 10th Century. Herbalists record it being grown in medieval European gardens, for ornamental and medicinal reasons as much as for its fresh fruit. Its roots and leaves were believed to be good for diarrhoea and its fresh fruits were employed as a toothpaste to clean up discoloured teeth and a balm for sun burn. Medieval stone masons carved strawberry designs on altars and around the tops of pillars in churches and cathedrals to symbolize perfection and righteousness.
The strawberry is native to many regions right across the world. The species Frageria virginiana is native to North America, however was taken across to New World France in 1624. Frageria chiloensis is native to Chile, it was taken to France in 1712, where both species were grown side by side in European gardens. It was here that the two species crossed and created Frageria ananassa. In the late 1700’s the new garden strawberry Frageria ananassa made its way back to America, where strawberry production began.
Early travellers in America recorded that strawberries grew extremely thick in virgin plains, sadly the plains are now mono-cultured corn-lands. The Indians sometimes called strawberries ‘Wuttahimneash’ meaning heart-seed berry. Indians used these strawberries for bread and drink making and may even have gardened those strawberries, propagating from runners and creating raisins or wine. Today strawberries still grow in open woodland and hilly ground throughout North America. Early settlers picked wild strawberries and grew them in their gardens.
In Europe. virus diseases came through and damaged a lot of the strawberry varieties in 1956. Breeding programs became popular in the 60’s to produce virus-resistant crops. Black Polythene sheeting introduced to reduce weed problem and increase bearing two weeks earlier. Sheeting allowed strawberry growing in other regions.
Strawberry plants cannot be grown well in an area where tomatoes or potatoes were previously grown due to the possibility of disease transmission.
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