Strawberries are not botanical berries but accessory fruits, distinctive for their bright red colour and sweetness. It is thought that the first garden strawberry was grown in France in the 1750s, although wild strawberries are documented in Roman literature for their medicinal purposes. Indeed, it is not only the sweet taste of strawberries which makes them such a popular ingredient, but they are also recognised for their extensive health benefits.
An Introduction to Strawberries
Strawberries belong to the Rosaceae family, and are typically cultivated as the hybrid species of the Fragaria genus. The fruit that we eat is an aggregate accessory fruit, which means that rather than the fleshy part containing one ovary of the flower, as it is with true berries, the ovaries are actually the apparent ‘seeds’ on the outside of the fruit, which contain a seed inside.
Growing strawberries is popular in Canada. They are a fast fruit to grow, meaning that you don’t need to wait long for a crop of delicious fruit.
Varieties of Strawberries
Though there are hundreds of varieties of strawberries, these can roughly be split into three main categories: June-bearing, Ever-bearing and Day-neutral strawberries. As you can probably guess, strawberry varieties are categorised by their growing season.
June-bearing strawberries are the most common varieties, producing the biggest fruit. They provide fruit for 10-14 days, though with different varieties being in season at slightly different times, the fruit season can extend to the full month of June, or longer.
Ever-bearing strawberries produce two harvests a year, in spring and in late summer. Although this is not exactly producing fruit all year round, as the name would suggest, it does allow for strawberries to be available for a much longer season.
Day-neutral strawberries are significantly smaller than other types of strawberries, but they provide a good crop of fruit in the first year. They can still be producing strawberries in October if the weather is particularly warm.
Strawberries are a rich source of vitamin C, containing about 97% of this vitamin, which is important for keeping your cells and tissue fighting fit. They are also very high in manganese, a trace mineral which helps with the activation of enzymes in the body. They contain no saturated fat and cholesterol.
The most nutrients from strawberries are gained when they are enjoyed raw, as cooking strawberries beyond 175ᵒC reduces their enzyme and antioxidant action.
32 kcal, 0.7g protein, 0.3g fat, 7.7g carbohydrate, 2.0g fibre
Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, making them great for boosting the immune system and also for eye health, helping to strengthen the retina and cornea. Vitamin C is a vitamin which our bodies are naturally unable to produce, and so we must get our daily requirement of this from the food we eat.
Strawberries are found to lower levels of bad cholesterol. This prevents plaque from building up in the arteries, and as they have an anti-inflammatory effect, they have been found not only to reduce risk of arthritis, but are also good for heart function.
Strawberries are also a good source of potassium. Potassium helps to regulate blood pressure and this combined with the cholesterol-lowering effect of strawberries make them a great fruit for the health of your heart.
It is not only your cardiovascular system that strawberries help, but they have also been shown to help with your digestive system. The fibre in them encourages regular bowel movements. Fibre slows the digestion of sugar, reducing spikes and dips in blood sugar level.