We’re within the pink! It’s come round once more, strawberry season. The Dordogne could lay declare to strawberries – understandably, given they’re accorded DOC standing. However they have been first bred in Brittany, within the 1750s. Up until then, wild strawberries have been the frequent fruit. 

It’s an historical one. Roman literature mentions it in reference to medicinal utility. What illnesses they used it to remedy isn’t recognized, however from the 1600s on, your entire plant was utilized within the therapy of melancholy. It seems in fifteenth century illuminated manuscripts by European monks. It exhibits up in works of the identical interval by English minituarists and in work by Italian, Flemish and German artists. Charles V, who dominated France from 1364 to 1380, had 12000 strawberry crops in his royal backyard. The gourmand who got here up with the heavenly mixture of strawberries and cream was an archbishop, Thomas Wolsey, cardinal of the Catholic Church, controller of the political views of the English courtroom of Henry VIII and finally charged with treason, an everyday behavior of that monarch. Fortunately for Wolsey, he died on his approach again to London to reply the fees.

A typical backyard fruit, strawberries are, uncommonly, each masculine and female. The very first species was the wild woodland strawberry, Fragaria vesca. Initially, these male woodland strawberries have been crossed with the male Fragaria virginiana from the state of Virginia in northeast America to domesticate a bigger fruit than the wild selection. 

F. virginiana is without doubt one of the two nice New World ancestors with out which we wouldn’t have the strawberry of at the moment, and the numerous varieties discovered throughout south-west France. The opposite ancestor is the feminine Fragaria chiloensis, the seaside strawberry, introduced from Chile in 1714 by Amédée-François Frézier, French navy engineer, mathematician, spy, and explorer, whose identify is now theirs, albeit spelled in another way. (That is for these of you who take pleasure in pop quizzes.) 

The Mapuche and Huilliche Indians of Chile had been cultivating strawberries with feminine flowers, which is the plant the Europeans introduced again to cross with their very own fruit. They’d little success, till the center of the 18th century when gardeners round north west France seen that when woodland strawberries and Virginian strawberries, each male, have been planted in between rows of feminine Chilean strawberries, the latter would produce massive and considerable fruits.

Nowadays, although, it’s Fragaria x ananass with its scent of pineapple which is prime in cultivating species for industrial manufacturing – none of which it’s essential know for a pop quiz. However what may stump your rivals is the truth that the strawberry isn’t a berry in any respect. It’s what’s known as ‘an mixture accent fruit’. You will have puzzled, biting into one, why a strawberry’s seeds are on the outside of the fruit, not inside. Every of these tiny seeds isn’t, in reality, a seed. It is without doubt one of the ovaries of the strawberry flower with a seed inside it. The fleshy a part of the fruit is simpy a receptacle to carry these ovaries. 

To your last pop quiz query: which, in a enterprise the place, in 2017, world manufacturing of strawberries was 9.2 million tonnes, is the world’s prime producer of strawberries? Clue: it’s not anyplace in Europe. It’s – no shock, actually – China.

Strawberry shortcakes, typically thought-about an American traditional, are initially British, nice with a sport of cricket and a jug of Pimms. Principally, they’re scones. So use your personal recipe for those who choose.

Serves 4

  • 400g strawberries, hulled and washed
  • 30g+1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 85g+3 tablespoons chilly butter
  • 300g flour
  • ¼ teaspoon effective salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 300ml thick cream for whipping
  • 1 egg yolk, crushed with 1 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 220C.

Grease a baking sheet. Quarter the strawberries. Put a 3rd right into a bowl with 30g sugar and crush roughly with a fork. Fold the lower strawberries into the mush.
Sift flour right into a mixing bowl, whisk in remaining sugar, salt and baking powder. Grate in chilly butter then rub into the dry components till it turns into coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in 160ml of the cream to kind a gentle dough, including extra if wanted. Knead shortly till simply easy, tip onto a floured floor and roll to 5mm thick. With a 6cm cutter, lower out 8 rounds. Set half on the baking sheet, soften the three tablespoons of butter and brush the tops of the rounds with it then put different halves on prime of them. Brush these with crushed egg, bake 20 minutes until risen and gold.

Pull them aside. Brush middles with any remaining butter. Put aside to chill on a rack.

Pour the cream into a big bowl and whip to gentle peaks. Put a scoop of cream on 4 bottoms. Spoon the strawberry mush generously over every then lay the remaining scone halves on prime and serve.

This column written by Julia Watson initially appeared within the June 2021 version of The Bugle.

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