A Short History of the Strawberry
It is our favourite time of year again when strawberries are back in season and the local fruit hut is bursting with freshly picked berries! Barbeques are finished with a mountain of strawberries and we are licking our lips just thinking about it!
But do you know the history of the little strawberry? Read on to find out more, or skip to the end for a delicious Sparkling Strawberry Iced Tea!
The Alpine Strawberry
Strawberries were first noted back in the early 16th century, however, we are sure they were eaten far earlier. Due to their sweet nature, they are most commonly enjoyed during the end of the meal, known as the ‘banquet’. Very similar to how they are eaten today!
However, some of you may be lucky enough to find wild ‘alpine’ strawberries on your strolls in the woods. They are shy in their growth and very frequently are hidden beneath other plants. Wild strawberries interestingly belong to the rose family of plants. We have some growing at the moment in a forest near our home, which you can see pictured below.
The appearance and taste are distinctively different from the common strawberry we are used to today. You can see above, alpine strawberries have seeds that push outwards from the strawberry, almost appearing spiky and are significantly smaller. They are recorded to have a more strawberry and vanilla taste rather than the full-flavoured sweetness of a normal strawberry.
These strawberries were the only ones available during the 16th century, and many use to blend with spices, wine, currants and sugar to help add flavour and create desserts.
The English Strawberry
As mentioned previously, the alpine strawberry is a lot smaller in comparison to the strawberries we eat today. This is because during the 18th century the strawberry was cross-bred with a ‘Chilean strawberry’.
Soon, England became purveyors in creating the juiciest and most succulent strawberries taking ownership of the strawberries we are proud to call ours today. The Victorians would avidly combine different varieties to produce the best strawberry variety. Leading to a variety called the Royal Sovereign. Many of the victorian varieties are lost, but some farmers are trying to re-cultivate them.
Strawberries and Cream
Strawberries and cream are supposedly the invention of Cardinal Wolsey - King Henry VIII advisor who was building one of the biggest kitchens at Hampton Court because Henry liked a lot of food…. I lie his court was very large including 600 lord and ladies who needed to be fed. Anyway, at a banquet held by Wolsey, the chef created a dessert of strawberries and cream. And so, it was written down in history and is now one of the most popular desserts and a staple at the famous Wimbledon Tennis Tournament.
5 Interesting Facts About Strawberries
- Strawberries are the only fruit to have their seeds on the outside. There are about 200 on the average strawberry!
- If you eat eight strawberries then you will have had more vitamin C than in the average orange!
- The strawberry plant is a perennial plant meaning that if you plant it now you will see it grow back each year in the same spot.
- Strawberry beer is delicious! Fruli is probably the most popular and it is super yummy!
- Strawberries come in yellow, white and purple colours too!
Sparkling Strawberry Iced Tea
This cocktail was so much fun to make on our live session - it is a batch cocktail using local strawberries, Tayport Distillery Vodka, chamomile, sparkling wine and a special syrup which you can find all the recipes for below. It is a refreshingly, sweet drink perfect as an aperitif before a BBQs or gathering in the hot sun.
You can view it here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=2736440169967465
For this recipe, you will be needing a blender, hob, chopping board, knife and a fine mesh to pour the liquid through and glasses (flutes or high balls depending on how fancy you would like to present it).
I recommend preparing the syrup and chamomile 3hrs before serving and allowing it to cool for 1 hr. Once the syrup and tea is cool prep the pitcher two hours before serving and allow to macerate and infuse the flavours before adding ice, sparkling wine and fresh fruit.
- Strawberries (two punnets)
- Fresh Basil Leaves
- Caster Sugar
- Chamomile Tea Bag
- 1 Water
- 2 cups of Malted Barley Vodka
- 3/4 Lemon Juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
- Sparkling Wine (I went for a drier Rosé sparkling wine but if you like sweeter wines try a Moscato)
- Fresh fruit (I used oranges and MORE strawberries)
- Blend 1 punnet of strawberries until smooth, pour into a saucepan and bring up to a simmer. Once the mixture is warm, add the sugar slowly stir until all the sugar is melted. Keep at a low heat, adding a handful of basil leaves, continue to stir for 15min as the basil begins to infuse. This should make about 1 cup of syrup, which is all we need for the cocktail.
- Take off the heat and pour the mixture through the mesh, if you do not have one do not worry - it will just be more rustic! We like rustic! and allow cooling for 1 hr in the fridge. Meanwhile, pop a chamomile tea bag into 1 cup of water and cold brew for 1 hr.
- In a pitcher, pour 2 cups of vodka, 1 cup of chamomile tea (prepared above), 1 cup of strawberry and basil syrup (prepared above) and stir. Allow this to sit in a fridge for 2 hrs before serving.
- Once you are about to serve, add 3/4 cup of lemon juice, ice, fresh fruit and top with half a bottle of sparkling wine.
- Tada! You are done! Serve it up in whichever glass you choose flute or highball. Enjoy!