Get your Jam on with Wild Strawberries
💇♀️ Emma Barber
Who doesn’t love strawberries?
They’re great in smoothies, integral to a pavlova, and perfect on a summer’s day. So, why not in a deodorant too? We had so many requests for a strawberry refill, so naturally, we got busy developing one! While mixing up batches of strawberry-scented goodness, we got thinking about this iconic fruit. We’ve looked at the history of how the strawberry came to be the fruit we recognise today, the strawberry tradition at Wimbledon, and we explored some exciting combinations in the world of flavour science. Here’s the ultimate 101 on Wild Strawberries.
The strawberry is a member of the rose family, with the most common varieties being a hybrid of the wild Virginia strawberry (native to North America) and a Chilean variety. The hybrid is the strawberry we know and love. Once humans discovered strawberries, we started eating them (who can blame us, really?). In Europe, we started with the small woodland strawberry found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. In the 17th century, the northern American Virginia strawberry (F. virginiana), was introduced into Europe, and this had a larger fruit, which became more popular. By the end of the 18th century, they had nearly replaced the woodland strawberry plants!
Now for a bit of a messy love story, the details of which were found here. While this was happening in Europe, some Chilean strawberry plants (F. chiloensis) were brought over to France in 1714 by French explorer Amédée-François Frézier. But this particular Frenchman had not studied his horticultural sex education, as he brought back female-only plants, so they were all unable to reproduce together. The remaining English woodland strawberries didn’t fancy intertwining their fruity branches with them, but luckily, some of the North American strawberries did! One thing led to another, and not long after, the bees did their thing and a hybrid strawberry plant of the Chilean and American plants was created, thanks to pollination.
This plant would come to bear that summer fruit which we love today, although many plants have been modified to be more resistant to disease, and some also are now everbearing. What a journey!
But the strawberry’s journey doesn’t end there... Did you know that at Wimbledon 2019, 191,930 portions of strawberries were served. How on earth do they all get there?
To ensure they are all as fresh as can be, the strawberries are picked from their field at 4.00am, collected from the packing plant at 9.00am and delivered to the club for inspection and hulling. They are then enjoyed by guests later that same day. The classic serving comes with a generous serving of cream too - but what else can strawberry lovers put with their fruit?
We picked up The Flavour Thesaurus: Pairings, recipes, and ideas for the creative cook by Niki Segnit and flicked to the strawberry section to see if we could find anything wild in there. There were all the classics, from almond and hazelnut, to mint and cucumber, to creamy coconut and vanilla, just to name a few, but these all were fairly expected. But then…are we reading this right? adjusts reading glasses... Tomato?!
Scientifically-minded chef Ron G. Buttery and his team discovered that tomatoes contain the strawberry furanone i.e. the strawberry flavour compound. So, in theory, you can use tomatoes and strawberries somewhat interchangeably! Instead of tomato, mozzarella, and basil, how about subbing in strawberries? Why not mix in strawberries with your fresh tomato salads too - they work well together too! We went a little off-piste and tried a balsamic roasted strawberry recipe with a vegan cream cheese spread for an exciting twist on bruschetta. Trust the process - it really worked! Give it a go and let us know what you think!
As Segnit says, "Wimbledon may never be the same again"... but hopefully there’ll be a few tennis players smelling fresh with their Wild on!