- Major entries:
- Fragaria chiloensis Duchesne. Garden Strawberry. Pine Strawberry.
- Fragaria vesca Linn. Alpine Strawberry. Perpetual Strawberry. Wood Strawberry.
- Fragaria virginiana Duchesne. Scarlet Strawberry. Virginia Strawberry.
Fragaria. Rosaceae. Strawberry.
The Latin word for the strawberry, Fraga, has given name to the botanical genus Fragaria, which includes our edible species. Ruellius, 1536, says the French word fresas was applied to the fruit on account of the excellent sweetness of its odor, odore suavissimum, and taste; in 1554, this was spelled frayses by Amatus Lusitanicus, but the modern word fraise appeared in the form fraises, in Fuchsius, 1542, and Estienne, 1545. The Italian fraghe and fragole, as used by Matthiolus, 1571, and fragola as used by Zvingerus, 1696, and the modern Italians, appear to have come directly from the Latin; while the Spanish fresa and fresera must have had the same immediate origin as the French. Some of the ancient commentators and botanists seem to have derived the Latin name from fragrans, sweet-smelling, for Turner in his Libellus, 1538, says "fragum non fragrum (ut quidam scioli scribunt)," and Amatus Lusitanicus, 1554, writes fragra. The latter quotes Servius, a grammarian of the fifteenth century, as calling the fruit terrestria mora,— earth mulberry,—(or, following Dorstenius who wrote in 1540, "fructus terrae et mora terrestria)," whence the Spanish and Portuguese murangaos, (the modern Portuguese moranguoiro). The manner of the fruit-bearing, near the ground, seems to have been the character of the plant more generally observed, however, than that of the fruit, for we have Virgil's verse, "humi nascentia fraga," child of the soil, and Pliny's epithet, "terrestribus fragis," ground strawberry, as distinguishing from the Arbutus unedo Linn. or strawberry tree, as also the modern vernacular appellations, such as the Belgian eertbesien, Danish jordbeer, German erdbeere, Netherland aerdbesie, while even the English strawberry, the Anglo-Saxon streowberie, spelled in modern fashion by Turner in 1538, is said to have been derived from the spreading nature of the runners of the plant, and to have come originally from the observed strewed, anciently strawed, condition of the stems, and reading as if written strawedberry plant. It was called straeberry by Lidgate in the fifteenth century.
The classical history of the strawberry can be written very shortly. Virgil refers to the "humi nascentia fraga" in his third Eclogue; Ovid to the "arbuteos fructus mon-tanaque fraga" in his Metamorphoses, book I, v. 104, as furnishing a food of the golden age and again in the 13th book, "mollia fraga;" and Pliny mentions the plant by name in his lib. xxi, c. 50, and separates the ground strawberry from the arbutus tree in his lib. xv, c. 28. The fruit is not mentioned in the cook-book ascribed to Apicius Coelius, an author supposed to have lived about A. D. 230. The Greeks seem to have had no knowledge of the plant or fruit; at least there is no word in their writings which commentators have agreed in interpreting as applying to the strawberry. Nicolaus Myripsicus, an author of the tenth century, uses the word phragouli, and Forskal, in the eighteenth century, found the word phraouli in use for the strawberry by the Greeks about Belgrade. Fraas gives the latter word for the modern Greek, and Sibthorp the word kovkoumaria, which resembles the ancient Greek komaros or komaron, applied to the arbutus tree, whose fruit has a superficial resemblance to the strawberry.
Neither the strawberry nor its cultivation is mentioned by Ibnal-awam, an author of the tenth century, unusually full and complete in his treatment of garden, orchard, and field products, nor by Albertus Magnus, who died A. D. 1280. It is not mentioned in The Forme of Cury, a roll of ancient English cookery compiled about A. D. 1390 by two master cooks of King Richard II; nor in Ancient Cookery, a recipe book of 1381; nor at the Inthronization Feast of George Neville, Archbishop of York, in 1504. The fruit was, however, known in London in the time of Henry VI, for in a poem by John Lidgate, who died about 1483, we find
- "Then unto London I dyde me hye,
- Of all the land it bearyeth the pryse;
- 'Gode pescode,' one began to cry —
- 'Strabery rype, and cherry s in the ryse.' "
The strawberry is figured fairly well in the Ortus Sanitatis, 1511, c. 188, but there is no mention of culture. Ruellius, however, 1536, speaks of it as growing wild in shady situations, says gardens furnish a larger fruit, and mentions even a white variety. Fuchsius, 1542, also speaks of the larger garden variety, and Estinne, 1545, (perhaps also in his first edition of the De Re Hortensi, 1535), says strawberries are used as delicacies on the table, with sugar and cream, or wine, and that they are of the size of a hazelnut; he says the plants bear most palatable fruit, red, especially when they are fully ripe; that some grow on the mountains and woods, and are wild, but that some cultivated ones are so odorous that nothing can be more so, and that these are larger, and some are white, others red, yet others are both red and white.
Cultivated strawberries are also noted by many authors of the sixteenth century, as by Mizaldus, 1560; Pena and Lobel in 1571; and in 1586 Lyte's Dodoens records, "they be also much planted in gardens." Porta, 1592, regards them as among the delicacies of the garden and the delights of the palate. Hyll, 1593, says "they be much eaten at all men's tables," and that "they will grow in gardens unto the bigness of a mulberry." Le Jardinier Solitaire, 1612, gives directions for planting, and Parkinson, 1629, notes a number of varieties. As to size, Dorstenius, 1540, speaks of them as of the size of a hazel-nut; Bauhin, 1596, as being double the size of the wild; the Hortus Eystettensis, 1613, figures berries one and three-eighths inches in diameter; Parkinson, in 1629, as "neere five inches about;" Plat, 1653, as two inches about in bigness; Vaillant, 1727, as an inch and sometimes more in diameter. It remained for Frezier, who discovered Fragaria chiloensis, and brought it to Europe in 1712, to describe fruit as of the size of a walnut, sometimes as large as an egg; and Burbridge, a recent writer, says that in the Equatorial Andes, in the province of Ambato, there are strawberries growing wild, equal in size and flavor to some of our best varieties.
The strawberry plant is variable in nature, and it seems probable that the type of all the varieties noted under cultivation may be found in the wild plant, if diligently sought for. In the Maine fields there are plants of Fragaria vesca with roundish, as well as elongated fruit; of Fragaria virginiana with roundish berries and elongated berries, with berries having a distinct neck and those not necked; of a deep red, scarlet, and palish color; with large fruit and small fruit; with large growth and small growth, according to the fertility of the soil.
As to color of fruit, white strawberries, to be referred to Fragaria vesca, are mentioned by Ruellius, 1536, and by a host of following writers. Peck has found white berries of this species about Skaneateles, New York. A white-fruited variety of F. virginiana is noted by Dewey as abundant in the eastern portion of Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Molina records that the Chile strawberry, Fragaria chiloensis, in Chile has red, white, and yellow-fruited varieties, and Frezier, who introduced the species to Europe in 1712, calls the fruit pale red. Gmelin in his Flora Sibirica, 1768, mentions three varieties of Fragaria vesca; one with a larger flower and fruit, one with white fruit; a third with winged petioles and berries an inch long. This last variety seems to answer to those forms of strawberry plants occasionally found among the seedlings at the New York Agricultural Experiment Station, which have extra leaflets upon the stem of the petiole. Five-leaved strawberry plants are noted by many of the early writers; an account of such plants may also be found in the Report of the New York Agricultural Experiment Station for 1877.
Variegated-leaved forms are named by Tournefort, 1719, and a number of varieties by Mawe in 1778. Such forms were also noted among the seedling Alpines at the New York Station in 1887. Don, in his History of Dichlamydeous Plants, 1832, describes Fragaria vesca as varying into red, white, and black fruit, as without runners, as double flowered, as with stamens transformed into flowers, as without petals and with foliaceous sepals; F. majaufea Duch., as varying into green, red, and purple fruit; F. breslingea Duch., as having varieties with usually five-lobed leaves; F. elatior as possessing a curled-leaved form; F. grandiflora as furnishing a variegated-leaved form; and F. chiloensis as having red-fleshed and white-fleshed fruit. Among the variations to be also noted is that of losing all its leaves in winter ascribed to the F. viridis Weston, and the twice-bearing habit of the Alpines, F. vesca Linn., var. a.
The earliest cultivated variety with a distinct nomenclature seems to be the Le Chapiron, of the Gallobelgians, a variety with a large, pale-colored berry, so named by Lobel, in 1576, and called by him Chapiton in the index to his Icones, 1591. (The Capiton of Tournefort, 1719, seems to correspond to the modern Hautbois class.) The name, Le Capiton, occurs also in the Hortus Regius Parisiis, 1665. It is quite probable that the Caprons mentioned by Quintinye in 1672, are the same or a similar variety, as both kinds are to be referred to Fragaria elatior Ehrh.
The modern varieties under American culture have usually large berries with more or less sunken seeds, with the trusses lower than the leaves, and seem to belong mostly to the species represented in nature by Fragaria virginiana, although they are supposed hybridizations with Fragaria chiloensis, and, in the higher-flavored class, with Fragaria elatior. Certain it is that, in growing seedlings from our improved varieties, reversions often occur to varieties referable to the Hautbois and Chilean sorts, from which hybridization can be inferred. One notes as of common occurrence that seedlings from high-flavored varieties are very likely to furnish some plants of the Hautbois class, and even scarcely, if at all, distinguishable from named varieties of the Hautbois with which there has been opportunity for close comparison. From large-berried varieties of diminished flavor, and which occasionally throw hollowed berries, the reversion occasionally produces plants unmistakably of the Chilean type. In other cases we have noticed reversions to forms of Fragaria vesca.
These circumstances all lead towards establishing the mingled parentage of our varieties under cultivation, and render the classification of cultivated varieties somewhat difficult. Vilmorin seems to have separated varieties into natural groupings under the headings: Wood strawberries, Fragaria vesca Linn.; Alpine strawberries, Fragaria alpina Pers.; Short-runnered Fragaria collina Ehrh.; Hautbois, Fragaria elatior Ehrh.; Scarlet, Fragaria virginiana Ehrh.; Chile, Fragaria chiloensis Duch.; Pineapple, Fragaria grandiflora Ehrh., and Hybrid (Fragaria hybrida). Under the latter distribution, to which he does not venture the Latin nomenclature, he does not recognize sufficient identity of character for general description, but one may well believe that an extended acquaintance with varieties will enable a description to be formulated which will make of this group a species by convenience, or, otherwise expressed, a historical species, with a number of subspecies (for convenience) which shall simplify the question of arrangement and which will enable us to secure a quicker identification of varieties.
The changes which have been produced, or have appeared under cultivation, seem comparatively few. 1. Increased size of plant. Yet in nature we find variability in this respect, arising from greater or less fertility or favoring character of the soil and exposure. This increase of size seems also in a measure to have become hereditary. 2. Increased size of berry. In nature we find variability in this respect. All analogical reasoning justifies the belief that this gain may arise through heredity influenced by long series of selections. 3. Firmness of berry. Present knowledge does not admit of assigning a cause for this feature, unless it has been gained through hybridization. 4. Flavor. This seems to be the direct sequence of hybridization, in its more marked aspects; in its lesser aspects it does not seem to exceed that which occurs between natural varieties. 5. Aspect. This seems to have been acquired through the action of hybridization, when the influence of one parent appears to have become predominant. The whole subject of the influences noted and to be ascribed to -hybridization must be left for further study.
Western shores of the New World. This is a dioecious strawberry, bearing very large fruit and called in Chile quelghen. The best quality of fruit, according to Molina, came from the Chilean provinces of Puchacay and Huilquilemu. The plant was carried by Frezier in 1712 from Conception to Europe and from Europe was carried to the West Indies. Prince describes the Large Scarlet Chile as imported to this country from Lima, about 1820, and the Montevideo, about 1840, and 14 other, varieties originating from this species.
Fragaria collina Ehrh. Green Strawberry.
Europe and northern Asia. The fruits are greenish, tinged with red, of a musky, rich, pineapple flavor. Prince enumerates four varieties as cultivated.
Fragaria elatior Ehrh. Hautbois Strawberry.
Europe. The French call this class of strawberries caprons. The fruit has a musky flavor which many persons esteem. Prince describes eight varieties in cultivation.
Temperate regions. Previous to 1629, the date of the introduction of the Virginian strawberry, this was the species generally gathered in Europe and the fruit referred to by Shakespeare:
- "My lord of Ely, when I was last in Holbom,
- I saw good strawberries in your garden there."
This species is mentioned by Virgil, Ovid and Pliny as a wild plant. Lyte, in his translation of Dodoens' Herball, refers to it as growing wild in 1578 and first appearing in an improved variety in cultivation about 1660. A. De Candolle, however, states that it was cultivated in the mediaeval period. Gray says it is indigenous in the United States, particularly northward. In Scandinavia, it ripens beyond 70°. Prince enumerates 10 varieties of the Wood, and 15 varieties of the Alpine, under cultivation. In 1766, Duchesne says, "The King of England was understood to have received the first seed from Turin." It was such a rarity that a pinch of seed sold for a guinea.
Eastern North America. Called by the New England Indians wuttahimneask. The Indians bruised this strawberry with meal in a mortar and made bread. This fruit was mentioned by Edward Winslow in Massachusetts in 1621. The settlers on the ship Arabella, at Salem, June 12, 1630, went ashore and regaled themselves with strawberries. Wood, in his New England Prospects, says strawberries were in abundance, "verie large ones, some being two inches about." Roger Williams says "this berry is the wonder of all the fruits growing naturally in these parts. It is of itself 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. In some parts where the Indians have planted, I have many times seen as many as would fill a good ship, within few miles compass." This fruit was first mentioned in England, by Parkinson, 1629, but it was a hundred years or more afterwards before attention began to be paid to improved seedlings. Hovey's Seedling was originated in America in 1834. Prince, in 1861, gives a descriptive list of 87 varieties which he refers to this species.