01 Dec Strawberry Delights
By Lee-Anne McKinnon, UNE Discovery Voyager
We had a bumper crop of strawberries this season. Our small patch of herbs and strawberries has suffered in previous years and not being the green thumb family, we don’t tend to give them much love and attention. This year, though, left to their own accord, they produced some of the largest and juiciest strawberries we’ve ever had. This had us fairly excited and drooling at the thought of regular strawberries for snacks, desserts and smoothies! So, it had me wondering, what conditions were better this year than any other – was it all this rain? Lots of sun? I delved into the world of strawberries to find out.
The strawberry plant is actually a relative of the rose, hailing from the Rosaceae family. The genus of strawberry plants is Fragaria, and there are over twenty species. Additionally, there are numerous hybrid strawberries and many varieties of cultivars.
The most commonly grown strawberry plant species is Fragaria x ananassa, or the Garden Strawberry. Virtually all commercial strawberry growers use one of the cultivars of the Garden Strawberry in their farming operations. However, there are many other strawberry plant species grown in home gardens around the world.
When it comes to differentiating and classifying the numerous strawberry plant species, the number of chromosomes the plant has is the key. All strawberry plants share seven common types of chromosomes. To distinguish between species, the number of pairs of these chromosomes must be determined. Some strawberry plant species are diploid, meaning they have two sets of the seven chromosomes (14 total). Others are tetraploid (4 pairs, 28 total), hexaploid (6 pairs, 42 total), octaploid (8 pairs, 56 total), or decaploid (10 pairs, 70 total).
Generally, the strawberry plant species with higher chromosome counts are more robust, grow larger as plants, and produce bigger strawberries. Exceptions do exist, however.
The leaves and the roots of a strawberry plant engage in photosynthesis or absorb water and nutrients from the soil in order to facilitate growth and reproduction. As the top three inches of soil contain about 70% of a strawberry plant’s roots, they are particularly susceptible to drought conditions. I think that’s why our strawberries have suffered in previous years!
The fruit of the strawberry plant is packed with beneficial nutrients, particularly Vitamin C and flavonoids. One cup of strawberries weighs approximately 144 grams and contains between 45 and 50 calories. Strawberries are over 90% water, 7% carbohydrates, about 2% fibre, and less than 1% each of protein, fat, and ash.
Strawberries are also a dietary source of minerals and vitamins. The following minerals are in strawberries, in descending amounts: potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, sodium, iron, manganese, zinc, copper, and selenium. Strawberries are also a good source of the following vitamins: Vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E. Additionally, strawberries contain 18 different amino acids.
Basically, unless you have a strawberry allergy, you can’t go wrong eating fresh, clean strawberries. They are very good for you!
I discovered a friend’s family had an unusual strawberry plant with red flowers. My standard garden strawberries have white flowers. What did this mean? There are many varieties of strawberries in Australia. There were a couple of varieties with red flowers: Strawberry Fragoo Red (Fragaria x ananassa) and ‘Berried Treasure Red’ (Everbearing Strawberry) Fragaria × ananassa. Perhaps it is one of those. The pink- or red-flowering strawberry hybrids were bred to be hardy and disease-resistant. They all seem to produce sweet tasty fruit and show off large red flowers. Both ornamental and edible, they produce clusters of semi-double, brilliant red flowers adorned with yellow centres from spring until first frost. These are just two varieties I found, perhaps there are more!
Strawberries prefer sunny conditions, with a warmer northerly aspect giving earlier fruit. They need shelter from early frosts and hot summer winds, and may want some shade from afternoon sun in hot summer climates. They are happy growing in either containers or beds. It turns out our bumper crop of strawberries is likely due to the sunny days we’re having, and maybe Mother Nature is looking after the watering for us.
I hope you’re enjoying some delicious homegrown strawberries from a garden near you this season.
A few facts about strawberries:
- China produces the most strawberries, with the US and Mexico in second and third place.
- The world’s largest strawberry was discovered in Japan in 2015, and weighed 250g. It was a mutation of many different strawberries which had fused into one.
- Strawberries have an average of 200 seeds on the outside of the fruit.
- There is a museum in Belgium dedicated to strawberries.
- Strawberries are in the rose family of plants.
More info: https://berries.net.au/