The garden strawberry, Fragaria ananassa, is a hybrid species that is cultivated worldwide for its fruit, the (common) strawberry. The fruit (which is not a botanical berry, but an aggregate accessory fruit) is widely appreciated for its characteristic aroma, bright red color, juicy texture, and sweetness. It is consumed in large quantities, either fresh or in prepared foods such as preserves, fruit juice, pies, ice creams, and milkshakes. Artificial strawberry aroma is also widely used in many industrialized food products.
The garden strawberry was first bred in Brittany, France, in the 1750s via a cross of Fragaria virginiana from eastern North America and Fragaria chiloensis, which was brought from Chile by Am d e-Fran ois Fr zier in 1714.
Cultivars of Fragaria ananassa have replaced, in commercial production, the woodland strawberry, which was the first strawberry species cultivated in the early 17th century.
The strawberry is, in technical terms, an aggregate accessory fruit, meaning that the fleshy part is derived not from the plant's ovaries but from the "receptacle" that holds the ovaries. Each apparent "seed" (achene) on the outside of the fruit is actually one of the ovaries of the flower, with a seed inside it. In both culinary and botanical terms, the entire structure is considered a fruit.
The first garden strawberry was grown in France during the late 18th century. Prior to this wild strawberries and cultivated selections from wild strawberry species were the common source for the fruit.
alt=Garden strawberry flower
Strawberry cultivars vary widely in size, color, flavor, shape, degree of fertility, season of ripening, liability to disease and constitution of plant. Some vary in foliage, and some vary materially in the relative development of their sexual organs. In most cases, the flowers appear hermaphroditic in structure, but function as either male or female. For purposes of commercial production, plants are propagated from runners (stolons) and, in general, distributed as either bare root plants or plugs. Cultivation follows one of two general models, annual plasticulture or a perennial system of matted rows or mounds. A small amount of strawberries are also produced in greenhouses during the off season.
'Gariguette,' a cultivar grown in southern France
The bulk of modern commercial production uses the plasticulture system. In this method, raised beds are formed each year, fumigated, and covered with plastic to prevent weed growth and erosion. Plants, usually obtained from northern nurseries, are planted through holes punched in this covering, and irrigation tubing is run underneath. Runners are removed from the plants as they appear, in order to encourage the plants to put most of their energy into fruit development. At the end of the harvest season, the plastic is removed and the plants are plowed into the ground. Because strawberry plants more than a year or two old begin to decline in productivity and fruit quality, this system of replacing the plants each year allows for improved yields and denser plantings. However, because it requires a longer growing season to allow for establishment of the plants each year, and because of the increased costs in terms of forming and covering the mounds and purchasing plants each year, it is not always practical in all areas.
A garden using the plasticulture method
The other major method, which uses the same plants from year to year growing in rows or on mounds, is most common in colder climates. It has lower investment costs, and lower overall maintenance requirements. Yields are typically lower than in plasticulture.
A third method uses a compost sock. Plants grown in compost socks have been shown to produce significantly higher oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), flavonoids, anthocyanins, fructose, glucose, sucrose, malic acid, and citric acid than fruit produced in the black plastic mulch or matted row systems. Similar results in an earlier 2003 study conducted by the US Dept of Agriculture, at the Agricultural Research Service, in Beltsville Maryland, confirms how compost plays a role in the bioactive qualities of two strawberry cultivars.
Strawberries are often grouped according to their flowering habit. Traditionally, this has consisted of a division between "June-bearing" strawberries, which bear their fruit in the early summer and "ever-bearing" strawberries, which often bear several crops of fruit throughout the season. Research has shown recently that strawberries actually occur in three basic flowering habits: short-day, long-day, and day-neutral. These refer to the day-length sensitivity of the plant and the type of photoperiod that induces flower formation. Day-neutral cultivars produce flowers regardless of the photoperiod.
Strawberries may also be propagated by seed, though this is primarily a hobby activity, and is not widely practiced commercially. A few seed-propagated cultivars have been developed for home use, and research into growing from seed commercially is ongoing. Seeds (achenes) are acquired either via commercial seed suppliers, or by collecting and saving them from the fruit.
Strawberries can also be grown indoors in strawberry pots.
Manuring and harvesting
Harvest Most strawberry plants are now fed with artificial fertilizers, both before and after harvesting, and often before planting in plasticulture.
The harvesting and cleaning process has not changed substantially over time. The delicate strawberries are still harvested by hand. Grading and packing often occurs in the field, rather than in a processing facility. In large operations, strawberries are cleaned by means of water streams and shaking conveyor belts.
Around 200 species of pests are known to attack strawberries both directly and indirectly. These pests include slugs, moths, fruit flies, chafers, strawberry root weevils, strawberry thrips, strawberry sap beetles, strawberry crown moth, mites, aphids, and others.
A number of species of Lepidoptera feed on strawberry plants; for details see this list.
Strawberry plants can fall victim to a number of diseases. The leaves may be infected by powdery mildew, leaf spot (caused by the fungus Sphaerella fragariae), leaf blight (caused by the fungus Phomopsis obscurans), and by a variety of slime molds. The crown and roots may fall victim to red stele, verticillium wilt, black root rot, and nematodes. The fruits are subject to damage from gray mold, rhizopus rot, and leather rot. The plants can also develop disease from temperature extremes during winter. When watering your strawberries, be sure to water only the roots and not the leaves, as moisture on the leaves encourages growth of fungus. Ensure that the strawberries are grown in an open area to prevent fungal disease from occurring.
'Chandler,' a short-day commercial cultivar grown in California
World strawberry production in tonnes
Strawberries are an easy plant to grow, and can be grown almost anywhere in the world. The best thing to do is to buy a plant in early to middle spring. Place the plant preferably in full sun, and in somewhat sandy soil. Strawberries are a strong plant that will survive many conditions, but, during the time that the plant is forming fruit, it is important for it to get enough water. Strawberries can also be grown as a potted plant, and will still produce fruit.
A strawberry plant will send out shoots in an attempt to propagate a new plant, and, if left alone, it will be successful in doing so, but this shoot can be cut off, and placed wherever you wish to start a new plant.
In addition to being consumed fresh, strawberries can be frozen, made into preserves, as well as dried and used in prepared foods, such as cereal bars. Strawberries are a popular addition to dairy products, as in strawberry-flavored ice cream, milkshakes, smoothies, and yogurts. Strawberries and cream is a popular dessert, famously consumed at Wimbledon. Depending on area, strawberry pie, strawberry rhubarb pie, or strawberry shortcake are also popular.
Strawberry pigment extract can be used as a natural acid/base indicator due to the different color of the conjugate acid and conjugate base of the pigment.
Strawberries contain fisetin, an antioxidant that has been studied in relation to Alzheimer's disease and to kidney failure resulting from diabetes.
One cup (144 g) of strawberries contains approximately 45 calories (188 kJ) and is an excellent source of vitamin C and flavonoids.
Some people experience an anaphylactoid reaction to the consumption of strawberries. The most common form of this reaction is oral allergy syndrome, but symptoms may also mimic hay fever or include dermatitis or hives, and, in severe cases, may cause breathing problems. Some research suggests that the allergen may be tied to a protein involved in the ripening of fruits, which was named Fra a1 (Fragaria allergen1). Homologous proteins are found in birch and apple, which suggests that people may develop cross-reactivity to all three species.
Pineberries]] White-fruited strawberry cultivars, lacking Fra a1, may be an option for strawberry allergy sufferers. Since they lack a protein necessary for normal ripening, they do not produce the flavonoids that turn the mature berries of other cultivars red. They ripen but remain white, pale yellow or "golden", appearing like immature berries; this also has the advantage of making them less attractive to birds. A virtually allergen-free cultivar named 'Sofar' is available.
- Hancock, J.F. (1999). Strawberries (Crop Production Science in Horticulture). CABI. ISBN 9780851993393
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