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Virginia Strawberry

( Originally Published 1933 )



FRAGARIA VIRGINIANA, DUSCHENE

This strawberry is native to eastern North America. Sturtevant says the New England Indians called it Wuttashimneash. It grows on dry, sunny slopes, and flowers the end of May and early June. The plant makes runners early in the season.

Leaf. The leaves are about three inches long, quite broad, and stand four to six inches high, and are shiny green above and gray-green below, and only hairy on the midrib below.

Flower. The flowers are white, in clusters, and three-quarters of an inch across, and appear at the end of a longish hairy stem.

Fruit and Seed. The fruits are ovoid, plump, and borne on slender stalks, and the seed is deeply sunk, small, and brown.

HISTORY AND LEGEND

The American Indians bruised this strawberry with meal in a mortar to make bread. It is mentioned by Edward Winslow in Massachusetts in 1621, and Hutchinson describes how the settlers on the ship Arabella went ashore at Salem on June 12, 1630, and ate of the fragrant strawberries. Roger Williams says of this berry, "It is the wonder of all fruits growing naturally in these parts. It is of itself so excellent; so that one of the chiefest doctors of England was wont to say, that, `God could have made, but God never did make, a better berry'." It was first mentioned in England by Parkinson in 1629. Sturtevant says that the modern varieties in America seem to belong mostly to the species represented in nature by the F. virginiana, although they are supposed to be a hybridization with F. chiloensis (a variety native to Chile), and the higher-flavored class with F. elatior. Furthermore he says the strawberry is so variable that if careful search were made almost all the cultivated types could probably be found growing wild. There is a white-fruited variety.

USES

The juice of the berry has long been used to clear the skin of spots.

In olden days strawberry leaves were added to cooling drinks and used in baths. According to Eleanour Rohde, strawberry wine was a favorite of Sir Walter Raleigh. But best of all uses is to eat the berries with sugar and the thick, clotted cream of Devonshire, called crême renversée in France. The wood strawberries served with white wine are luscious too.

Strawberry juice is used to color and flavor drinks of other fruits. Jams and conserves of the fruit are very popular, and in the United States strawberries laid between the layers of a cake or short biscuit are a national dish, the strawberry short cake.



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