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Strawberries

Fragaria × ananassa

History

This delectable berry has been marveled by many notable people in history such as Dr. William Butler, who wrote “doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did” when referring to the strawberry (Trinklein). Evidence of strawberries date as far back as the ancient Romans, and they have had significance to many different cultures. Different Native American tribes used the symbol of the strawberry to represent things such as love, giving, happiness, blessing, and the arrival of spring. Along with symbolism, strawberries have been used within medicinal practices and as a luxury item. In the 1300’s they were being cultivated in Europe, and by the mid-1500’s, strawberries began to be farmed in England due to popularity. By the year 1800, the United States followed suit to begin a commercial industry (Darrow).

One of the most important moments in strawberry history is the interbreeding of the European and Chilean varieties. Strawberries were discovered in Chile and brought back to Europe during a voyage in 1714 for King Louis XIV. This new variety was crucial to the modern strawberry that is common today because the Chilean strawberry had a much larger size in which the European variety lacked (Darrow).

Importance to Oregon

Oregon has a long history with strawberries as well, dating back to 1850 when Henderson Luelling opened a nursery in Milwaukee, Oregon. There have been many significant strawberry varieties such as Ettersburg 121, Marshall, Totem, Tillamook, Hood, and many others. Oregon was a pioneer to canning, and freezing strawberries for production, and continues to be leader in these areas. The majority of Oregon grown strawberries for commercial production are for those two markets rather than for fresh production (Oregon Strawberry History). According to the USDA, in 2017 the value of strawberry production in sales was $12,028,000 for the state of Oregon (2017 State).

Planting, Gorwing, Harvesting

Planting

Around August, many strawberry producers begin the process of ground prep. This is where the last season’s plants are tilled under, and the ground is fertilized and plowed. In an industrial setting, strawberries are usually cloned through propagation and transplanted into a field. Sometimes plastic is laid over the rows in a practice known as plasticulture which can help with things such as weed management, water conservation, and fruit cleanliness . In Oregon, strawberries are usually planted in early spring (Scott).

Growing

When strawberries are being grown, they need to have available water which can be provided by an irrigation system (Growing Strawberries). Strawberries also need exposure to sun with temperatures around 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The soil should be around 6 to 7 pH, and well drained for optimal growth (Strik).

Harvesting

Strawberries are a very delicate fruit that are typically harvested through the months of June and July. Some strawberry plants keep producing for many months, and require multiple harvests in a season. Some plants need to be harvested as many as 3 times a week! Harvest is done by hand with workers combing the field and picking the berry from the base of the calyx. The berries are then packaged in the field and then brought to a cooler where they are chilled to ensure freshness.

Strawberry Anatomy

Contrary to their name, strawberries are not actually a berry but rather an aggregate fruit. This is because they are formed from one flower that has many ovaries, and the fleshy red fruit is actually an enlarged receptacle (Trinklein). Strawberry plants have several different parts that contribute to its healthy function. The roots of a strawberry plant are relatively shallow and sprout from the plant’s crown which is at the base of the plant by the top of the soil. The crown of the plant is where the stolons and the fruit stalks emerge. The stolon is also know as a runner, and this is where the daughter plants will grow from, because strawberries self propagate. The leaves of a strawberry plant are compound consisting of three leaflets each (Strawberry).

On the outside of the strawberry there are distinctive “seeds”, however, these are not actually seeds but rather ovaries called achenes (Trinklein). On the top of the strawberry, there is a green leafy part called a calyx. The peduncle is the part of the plant that attaches the calyx and the bract.  The calyx and peduncle are both not usually consumed.

Nutrition

Strawberries have a huge amount of nutritional value, they are very high in vitamin C with 160% of the recommended daily value per serving! They are also packed with potassium, and some fiber among other beneficial nutrients (Strawberry Nutrition).

Types of Strawberries

Strawberries have a couple of different plant types that are determined by when they bear fruit. The three types of strawberry plants can be classified below as:

Everbearing

These plants usually produce two to three crops intermittently from spring to fall. These plants also produce few runners (Finn).

June-bearing

These produce one large crop of strawberries in early summer, and then stop yielding. This type of plant will produce many runners (Finn).

Day-neutral

These plants were cultivated from everbearing strawberries, but they differ because they will continuously bear fruit from spring to fall . Like the everbearers, this plant produces few runners. This is a more recent type of plant that was cultivated in the 1970’s (Finn).

Inspection

Like any food that is put on the market, strawberries have to pass a series of different inspections before they reach stores. Some of the things that inspectors are looking for are size, firmness, ripeness, damage, cleanliness, foreign matter, insects, disease, and other qualities (United States Standards).

It is anticipated that some of the yield will be deemed unsatisfactory by these standards, and it is important to reduce this as much as possible. Generally strawberries should be firm to the touch, vibrant red in color, and not have a misshapen appearance. Foreign matter, insects, and disease are all crucial to inspect for to insure that this product is safe for consumption. Mold, bronzing, dirt, and other issues are all detected through the inspection process as well.

Spring Strawberry Spinach Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 9 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 1 quart fresh strawberries cleaned, hulled and cut in half
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans
  • 1/4 medium red onion thinly sliced (optional)

Directions

  1. Add the poppy seeds, sugar, olive oil, and vinegar to a mason jar. Secure the lid and shake well to combine. Refrigerate for an hour or up to 7 days prior.
  2. Combine the spinach, strawberries, pecans, and red onion slices (if using) in a large salad bowl or on a platter. Pour the dressing over salad, and lightly toss. Refrigerate about 10 minutes before serving.

 

Recipe courtesy of Add a Pinch.

Fun Facts

  1. There are about 200 “seeds” (achene) on an average strawberry.
  2. Strawberries are not actually berries, they are aggregate fruit.
  3. Strawberries are a member of the rose family, rosaceae.
  4. Commercially, strawberries are farmed as annuals but they are actually perennials.
  5.  There is a Belgian museum dedicated to strawberries.
  6. Strawberries are grown in every US state.
  7. Seventy percent of a strawberry plant’s roots are in the top three inches of soil.
  8. Strawberries contain more Vitamin C per serving than oranges.
  9. Romans used strawberries to cure things such as fever, melancholy, and bad breath!
  10. Strawberries are octoploid and through a simple procedure their DNA can be extracted!

AITC Resources

The Berry Book
The Berry Book
The Berry Book

Saving Strawberry Farm
Saving Strawberry Farm
Saving Strawberry Farm

Related Resources

Darrow, George M. “The Strawberry” The New England Institute for Medical Research, 1966. Print. https://specialcollections.nal.usda.gov/speccoll/collectionsguide/darrow/Darrow_TheStrawberry.pdf

Finn, Chad E., Strik, Bernadine C., Moore, Patrick P. “Strawberry Cultivars for Western Oregon and Washington” Extension Service. Oregon State University, April 2014. https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/catalog/files/project/pdf/ec1618.pdf

“Growing Strawberries” PennState Extension. Pennsylvania State University. https://extension.psu.edu/growing-strawberries

“Oregon Strawberry History” Oregon Strawberries. Oregon Strawberry Commission.  http://www.oregon-strawberries.org/history.html

Scott, Judy. “Plant Strawberries in Early Spring” Extension Service. Oregon State University, 27 May 2009. http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/node/1042

“Strawberry” Plant and Fruit. Encyclopedia Britannica, 14 September 2016.  https://www.britannica.com/plant/strawberry

“Strawberry Nutrition” Driscoll’s. https://www.driscolls.com/berries/strawberries/nutrition

Strik, Bernadine “Growing Strawberries in Your Home Garden” OSU Extension Catalog. Oregon State University, March 2017. https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/ec1307/html

Trinklein, David “Strawberry: A Brief History” Integrated Pest Management. University of Missouri, 21 May 2012.  https://ipm.missouri.edu/meg/2012/5/Strawberry-A-Brief-History/

“United States Standards for Grades of Strawberries” United States Department of Agriculture. 23 February 2006.  https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Strawberry_Standard%5B1%5D.pdf

“2017 State Agriculture Overview” United States Department of Agriculture. 12 April. 2018. https://www.nass.usda.gov/Quick_Stats/Ag_Overview/stateOverview.php?state=OREGON