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What Are Strawberries?
Strawberries are the fruit of the Fragaria, a flowering plant from the genus of Rosaceae. Despite the name, strawberries are not actually berries. Strawberries are scientifically classified as an “accessory aggregate” fruit. Each of the apparent seeds on the outside of a strawberry is called an ovary from the strawberry plant, and each ovary contains a seed.
3 Different Types of Strawberries
There are three main different types of strawberries.
- June-bearing strawberries are an annual crop that is typically produced in the month of June. The harvest period of June-bearing strawberries is approximately 10 days. These strawberries are large in size. They’re the most common strawberry variety.
- Everbearing strawberries can produce two harvests per year, in the spring and in the late summer or early fall.
- Day-neutral strawberries have a long production period, which can begin as early as October. These perennial strawberry plants can flower and produce fruit in temperatures as low as 35 F. Day-neutral strawberries do not require full sun exposure. They can grow regardless of the amount of sunlight, hence their name. They are small in size.
How Are Strawberries Grown and Harvested?
Strawberries have been a crowd favorite for centuries. The ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated wild strawberries and their health benefits. The red fruits can be found in the decorative margins of the illuminated manuscripts of fourteenth-century monks, and the red morsels are featured prominently in European paintings. King Charles V’s royal gardens boasted 12,000 strawberry plants.
Garden strawberries were first cultivated in Brittany, France, in the late eighteenth century. This first crop was a mix between the North American species Fragaria virginiana and the Fragaria chiloensis, from Chile.
There are hundreds of cultivars of strawberries that grow in different climates and conditions. Commercially produced strawberries are available beyond the typical strawberry season. These are typically a variety made from the species Fragaria and ananassa. While strawberries can grow in most soil, the fruits perform best in sandy loam soil. Most commercial strawberries in the United States are grown in California and Florida.
- June-bearing strawberries are grown using the matted row system, in which the plants are separated into rows to leave room for the roots to spread runners. These runners, or stolons as they’re called, can sprawl and produce offshoots of new plants.
- Day-neutral strawberries and everbearing strawberries are grown using the hill method, also known as “the mound system.” The plants are planted on raised ground. There are typically two rows of plants per hill, organized in a staggered pattern. In this method, the plants’ runners are removed—this allows for the mother plants to retain more productive energy, leading to more flower stalks on each plant.
What Are the Characteristics of Strawberries?
Strawberries are bright red in color. They’re wide at the top and taper down to a point, like a heart. Strawberries range in size; some varieties of strawberries can be a wide as two inches.
The best strawberries are juicy and have a sweet taste. Fresh strawberries are full of flavor and have a strong, sweet aroma. They’re topped with green caps, which can be consumed but aren’t very palatable.
The health benefits of strawberries have been well-documented. Strawberries include a variety of nutrients and vitamins, including Vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, and manganese. They are also a good source of fiber and are low in saturated fat. They also contain antioxidants, including ellagic acid, kaempferol, anthocyanins, and quercetin.
3 Simple Ways to Use Strawberries in Cooking
Strawberries can top savory salads or adorn a stack of buttermilk pancakes. They can be enjoyed with a glass of Champagne, or placed on top of a tart. They can even be blended into a frozen drink.
- Strawberry jam. Combine 1 pound of strawberries with ⅔ cups of sugar in a skillet. Stir in one large peeled and grated Granny Smith apple. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until the jam is thickened. Stir in one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. Transfer the jam to a jar and chill until it is set.
- Strawberry ice cream. Wash and hull 1 pound of strawberries, then cut them into ¼-inch slices. Process half of the strawberries in a food processor or blender. In a saucepan, combine 2 cups of heavy cream, a ⅔ cup of sugar, and 1 cup of whole milk over medium heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the mixture into and a large bowl, and add the strawberry puree. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator until completely cool. Dice the remaining strawberries into smaller pieces and mix them into the mixture. Pour the ingredients into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's instructions. Add the diced strawberries in towards the end of the process. Put the ice cream in an airtight container and freeze for at least two hours before serving.
- Strawberry agua fresca. Combine 4 cups of water with a ⅓ cup of sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Place 6 cups of hulled strawberries in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Combine the sugar mixture and strawberry puree with a ¼ cup of fresh lime juice.
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