Fragrantly sweet strawberries are the most popular type of berry fruit in the world. Although they have become increasingly available year-round, they are at the peak of their season from April through July when they are the most delicious and most abundant. It is consumed in large quantities, either fresh or in such prepared foods as preserves, fruit juice, pies, ice creams, milkshakes, and chocolates.
While there are more than 600 varieties of strawberries that differ in flavor, size and texture, one can usually identify a strawberry by its red flesh that has small seeds piercing its surface, and a small, regal, green leafy cap and stem that adorn its crown.
The strawberry fruit was mentioned in ancient Roman literature in reference to its medicinal use. The French began taking the strawberry from the forest to their gardens for harvest in the 14th century. The entire strawberry plant was used to treat depressive illnesses. By the 16th century references of cultivation of the strawberry became more common. The introduction of F. virginiana from Eastern North America to Europe in the 17th century is an important part of history because this species gave rise to the modern strawberry.
It was not until the 18th century, however, when cultivation of strawberries began to be pursued in earnest. In 1714, a French engineer sent to Chile and Peru to monitor Spanish activities in these countries "discovered" a strawberry native to this region that was much larger than those grown in Europe. He brought many samples back to France, which were subsequently planted. These plants did not originally flourish well until a natural crossbreeding occurred between this species and a neighboring North American strawberry variety that was planted nearby in the field. The result was a hybrid strawberry that was large, juicy and sweet, and one that quickly grew in popularity in Europe.
The strawberry, like many other perishable fruits at this time, remained a luxury item only enjoyed by the wealthy until the mid-19th century. Once railways were built and more rapid means of transportation established, strawberries were able to be shipped longer distances and were able to be enjoyed by more people.
One serving (100 g; see Table) of strawberries contains approximately 33 kilocalories, is an excellent source of vitamin C, a good source of manganese, and provides several other vitamins and dietary minerals in lesser amounts. Limited research indicates that strawberry consumption may be associated with a decreased cardiovascular disease risk and that phytochemicals present in strawberries have anti-inflammatory or anticancer properties in laboratory studies. Epidemiological studies have associated strawberry consumption with lower rates of hypertension, inflammation, cancer, and death from cardiovascular diseases
Strawberries retain their maximum amount of nutrients and their maximum taste when they are enjoyed fresh and not prepared in a cooked recipe.