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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Strawberries in History, Literature & Art


"Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did." (Dr. William Butler, 17th Century English Writer) Dr. Butler is referring to the strawberry. Strawberries are the best of the berries. The delicate heart-shaped berry has always connoted purity, passion and healing. It has been used in stories, literature and paintings through the ages.
In Othello, Shakespeare decorated Desdemonda's handkerchief with symbolic strawberries.
Madame Tallien, a prominent figure at the court of the Emperor Napoleon, was famous for bathing in the juice of fresh strawberries. She used 22 pounds per basin, needless to say, she did not bathe daily.
In parts of Bavaria, country folk still practice the annual rite each spring of tying small baskets of wild strawberries to the horns of their cattle as an offering to elves. They believe that the elves, who are passionately fond of strawberries, will help to produce healthy calves and abundance of milk in return.
The American Indians were already eating strawberries when the Colonists arrived. The crushed berries were mixed with cornmeal and baked into strawberry bread. After trying this bread, Colonists developed their own version of the recipe and Strawberry Shortcake was created.
In Greek and Roman times, the strawberry was a wild plant.
The English "strawberry" comes from the Anglo-Saxon "streoberie" not spelled in the modern fashion until 1538.
The first documented botanical illustration of a strawberry plant appeared as a figure in Herbaries in 1454.
In 1780, the first strawberry hybrid "Hudson" was developed in the United States.
Legend has it that if you break a double strawberry in half and share it with a member of the opposite sex, you will fall in love with each other.
The strawberry was a symbol for Venus, the Goddess of Love, because of its heart shapes and red color.
Queen Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII had a strawberry shaped birthmark on her neck, which some claimed proved she was a witch.
To symbolize perfection and righteousness, medieval stone masons carved strawberry designs on altars and around the tops of pillars in churches and cathedrals.
The wide distribution of wild strawberries is largely from seeds sown by birds. It seems that when birds eat the wild berries the seeds pass through them intact and in reasonably good condition. The germinating seeds respond to light rather than moisture and therefore need no covering of earth to start growing.

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