What’s in a strawberry?
It is not often that something so healthy and nutritious is also considered delicious and indulgent, but then the strawberry is a rather special fruit and a British favourite. Its season is short but glorious, so grab a punnet now!
All about strawberries
The strawberry is cultivated and prized worldwide. Scientifically it is not a berry but an ‘aggregate accessory fruit’, meaning it has been produced as the result of a merger of a number of separate ovaries within a single flower. Each tiny ‘seed’ is actually an ovary with a seed inside, with the flesh of the fruit acting as a holder for these multiple ovaries. They are prized for their sweet, sweet aroma, their tender flesh and abundant juice, their glorious flavour and their bright red, almost sensuous appearance.
The strawberry has been eaten in Europe since Ancient Roman times, has been used for its medicinal properties, and is often depicted in art thanks to its beauty. King Henry VIII’s lord chancellor Thomas Wolsey, was the first to marry the fruit with cream and create the classic British combination without which Wimbledon just would not be the same. In Sweden they are traditionally eaten to celebrate Midsummer Eve, while Greeks dip them in their local brandy, Metaxa, before eating.
Arguably at their best eaten fresh, particularly in rich desserts and cakes such as Victoria sponge, strawberries have a number of culinary applications; for example, they are preserved in jam and dried in cereal. Their flavouring is added to countless foods, such as milk and milkshakes, ice cream, yoghurts and sweets.
The nutritional content of strawberries
A serving of 100g is rich in valuable nutrients, particularly vitamin C, fibre, folate and manganese, while the oil in the seeds is a modest source of unsaturated fatty acids. This particular fruit has not been the subject of many studies regarding its effect upon human health; however, there is limited evidence suggesting that consumption can protect against cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Strawberries also contain certain phytochemicals, such as ellagitannins and quercetin, which have known anti-inflammatory properties. They have also been linked with reducing cholesterol and balancing blood sugar levels; in addition, they have a high content of antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, which may help to ward off chronic diseases and promote general good health. This is all in return for just 33 calories per 100g – until you add the cream, that is!