Wild strawberries are native to the temperate climates of the world, including North America, and were discovered in Virginia by European settlers in the late 1500s. Native Americans were cultivating strawberry plants as early as 1643. Today’s strawberries were created when a variety from North America and a variety from South America accidentally crossed in a European garden and began producing a bigger and better berry in the 1700s.
Strawberries are members of the rose family and are the only fruit with seeds on the outside. There are many guesses as to how they got their name, either from the reference to the straw that was placed around the plants to protect ripening berries, to the season that straw was ready for harvest, to the runners of the plant that spread outward and “strew” the berries about, hence, it was called a “strewnberry.”
The flavor of a strawberry is influenced by weather, the variety, and the stage of ripeness when harvested.
Eat your strawberries out of hand, slice and use them in a spinach salad, pour raw cream over the berries and sprinkle with sugar for a satisfying dessert, or use them as yogurt or cereal toppers. They are fantastic in tarts, pies, and baked goods.
Strawberries are great candidates for jam and they can also be frozen easily for making jam at a later time or for use in smoothies. To freeze, rinse berries, remove the green cap, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in freezer until they are frozen solid. Seal frozen berries in a plastic bag and use within six months.
And, if you’re finding yourself in need of something out of the ordinary to try with this delicious fruit, try roasting your berries to draw out their natural juices and sweetness even more.
Don’t wash your strawberries until you’re ready to use them and wait to remove their caps and stems until they have been washed and dried. This will prevent the berries from absorbing excess water while they are being washed. Remove the green cap with your fingers or a paring knife.
Store fresh strawberries in a perforated plastic basket or in a colander in the refrigerator so that the air can circulate around them. Use them within a few days. Let strawberries warm to room temperature for about an hour before you plan on using them for best flavor.