Garden Strawberry Plants – Introduction
Fragaria × ananassa, commonly known as the garden strawberry, is a plant species belonging to the rose family Rosaceae that’s most commonly grown for its fruit, the eponymous strawberry. It has many cultivars and the fruit itself is widely popular, finding use in food products such as jellies, jams, juices, pies, ice cream, milkshakes, yogurt, and chocolates, as well as additives and derivatives such as artificial strawberry flavoring or aromas, typically found in candy, soaps, lip gloss, perfume, and other such things. Its bright, sweet and mildly sour taste is a mainstay in western culture, and the plants can be easy to grow and nurture with the right tools. This article will serve as an introduction to the origins, history, and general information of garden strawberries.
Origins and History
Fragaria × ananassa was first bred in Brittany, France in the 1750s by crossing Fragaria virginiana, an eastern North American species, with Fragaria chiloensis, a species brought over from Chile by Amédée-François Frézier in 1714. Gardeners had experienced problems with growing F. chiloensis in certain parts of Europe for several years, as the plants wouldn’t bear fruit, and it wasn’t until the 1750s that they realised that F. chiloensis plants often only produced female flowers (featuring only pistils) and needed an external source of pollen. It was here that they introduced F. virginiana plants to their crops, creating a natural hybrid that eventually became Fragaria × ananassa. It was named “ananassa” for its sour pine taste, in reference to the Ananas genus that pineapples belong to.
The garden strawberry soon replaced the wild strawberry, Fragaria vesca, in the commercial market, having larger and more plentiful fruits that could be grown early in the spring, though some cultivars of F. vesca are still grown in modern gardens. There are now hundreds of cultivars available of the garden strawberry to grow, categorized under three main types: June-bearing (meaning that they bear fruit in one large harvest, typically in June), everbearing (meaning that they bear fruit in two or more harvests, typically one in the spring and one in the autumn), and day-neutral (meaning that they bear fruit during suitable temperatures throughout the year regardless of season). Each type has its pros and cons depending on the growing space and climate available, as well as desired harvest levels.
Common varieties of all types include:
- Honeoye (day-neutral/June-bearing, wildly popular)
- Earliglow (June-bearing, very early season)
- Ozark Beauty (everbearing, has two major crops)
- Jewel (June-bearing, late midseason, mild winter hardiness)
- Sparkle (June-bearing, late season, excellent for jam-making)
- Fort Laramie (everbearing, good for hydroponics)
- Tristar (day-neutral, consistent production, good for hanging baskets)
Strawberries, despite their name, are not true berries– it is actually an aggregate accessory fruit, meaning that its fleshy part is derived not from the plant’s ovaries but from the receptacle that holds the ovaries, similar in structure to raspberries. Each apparent “seed,” called an achene, on the outside of the fruit is actually one of the ovaries of the flower with a seed inside it. Strawberry flowers belonging to the Fragaria × ananassa species are typically self-pollinating, featuring both pistils and stamens, and rely on natural pollinators such as bees to produce fruit.
Garden strawberry plants are typically propagated from runners, and distributed as either bare-root plants or plugs. They can also be propagated by seed, though it’s not as popular and developed as runner propagation and is typically a hobby activity. Some seed-propagated cultivars of strawberries have been developed.
Strawberries can be grown in plots, raised beds, pots, hanging baskets, or in greenhouse or indoor conditions. Most varieties ideally require lots of sun and room to grow, though they can withstand partial shade and semi-cramped conditions.
Garden strawberries are flexible and unique plants that yield good harvests and delicious fruit no matter which cultivar you pick, and are surprisingly easy to grow when sourced from trusted nurseries. It all comes down to taking care of them properly, like with most garden fruits and vegetables. A lot of foods rely on strawberries for their rich sweetness and color, and they are a great source of vitamin C like other red fruits. If you’re struggling to find an easy, vitamin C-rich fruit to plant for your garden or your homestead, strawberries are the way to go.
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