The Complete Strawberry
#OTD Today in 1806, Michael Keens, a market gardener from Isleworth, exhibited the first large-scale cultivated strawberry combining flavor and appearance, at the Royal Horticultural Society.
It's hard to imagine, but large garden strawberries didn't exist before the 1800s.
In his wonderfully illustrated book, The Complete Strawberry (Century Books, 1985), Stafford Whiteaker revealed the modern strawberry's development over the last two centuries; sharing how plants were harvested from the foot of the Andes and brought to France by a French spy named Amédée François Frézier (1682- 1773).
Frézier cared for five plants during the six-month journey home by sharing his own precious supply of water. In a strange coincidence, Frézier’s surname is itself derived from fraise, the French word for strawberry. It turns out, his ancestor, Julius de Berry, presented the Emperor with a gift of strawberries and was honored with the name of his gift.
For clarification, the name ‘‘strawberry’’ does not refer to mulching the berries with straw. Instead, it is from the Old English term straw, which means ‘‘to spread’ referring to their runners grow.
On 30 Apr 1859, The Preston Chronicle and Lancashire Advertiser offered a little advice about growing Keen's strawberries, saying,
"For edgings for these nothing is more profitable than parsley or a line of Keens's seedling strawberry."