Michael Keens

The Complete Strawberry

On this day, Michael Keens, a market gardener from Isleworth, exhibited the first large-scale cultivated strawberry at the Royal Horticultural Society.
Now when it came to strawberries, Michael combined two important variables: flavor and appearance. It's hard to imagine, but large garden strawberries as we know them today didn't exist before the 1800s.
In his wonderfully illustrated book, The Complete Strawberry, Stafford Whiteaker takes us through the strawberry's development over the past two hundred years; sharing how strawberries were harvested from the foot of the Andes and brought to France by a French spy named Amédée François Frézier.
Frézier’s strawberry story is one of triumph. He cared for five little strawberry plants from the Andes during the six-month journey home to France and he shared his own precious supply of water with the strawberries to keep them alive.
And, in a strange coincidence, Frézier’s surname is derived from Fraise - the French word for strawberry. It turns out, that Frézier’s ancestor, Julius de Berry, had presented the French Emperor with a gift of strawberries and in return, he was honored with the name Frézier as 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 the way the 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."

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Michael Keens
Michael Keens

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