Product knowledge: strawberry
Below is a list of different categories that describes the most important product information about strawberry. If you would like to know more, click on the links or read the recommended books!
Strawberries give us some of the sweetest fruits in the world, due to their enticing floral aroma, juiciness and that distinctively sweet, yet fresh taste. This popular soft fruit evokes memories of British summers, and is rightly nicknamed the ‘queen of berries’. As the strawberry season progresses through the summer months, the stronger the aroma of the fruit and its foliage gets. In the summer months, the British strawberry is at its best. Outside the summer months, strawberries usually come from abroad, mainly from Spain, Israel, Morocco and Egypt and have little flavour. The first strawberries to arrive in Britain came over from the then newly established Northern American colonies in the 17th Century. However our ancestors before this would have eaten our native wild strawberry. Strawberries have been referred to and cultivated by people for centuries. Strawberries were already eaten in the Bronze Age and they have been cultivated since the 14th century. Bartolomeo Scappi also mentioned recipes with strawberries in one of the very first cookbooks from the year 1570.
Strawberries must be freshly picked and processed immediately, because of their thin skin and delicate structure, so can only be kept for a few days. A strawberry has a light pineapple scent and little pectin. When making jam, a lot of pectin has to be added compared to other fruits.
The cultivation of strawberries
Growing strawberries can be done in different ways. Growers work with different types of cultivation to be able to deliver their fruit longer during the season. This gives food professionals the peace of mind that they can leave their menus and recipes unchanged for longer. From the open ground, the soft fruit season would last only two months. The different types of cultivation naturally aim for an optimal taste, shelf life and appearance.
Cultivation in greenhouses
By growing soft fruit in glass greenhouses, the grower can ensure that the fruit ripens very early or very late. Very early means the months of March to June, and very late, the months of October to December.
A tunnel of polythene (poly tunnel) is akin to a green greenhouse environment for the cultivation of strawberries and raspberries, among other things. The heat is better retained under the roof than with cultivation in the open ground. The plastic also ensures that the fruits are protected against moisture and dirt.
When growing strawberries in the open air, the strawberry grows in the open ground. However, there is one drawback to this method: the weather. Without protection, such as a greenhouse tunnel, the risk of damage from rain and pests is very high.
Scaffold cultivation is only used for strawberry cultivation. The strawberry plants are on racks, so that picking is easier and the strawberries remain beautiful. They hang in the sun and stay cleaner. Scaffolding takes place outside.
The fruit product group is divided into different families. In the figure below, you can see that the strawberry is related to the soft fruit. The strawberry belongs to the rose family. This is a flower family including the apple, raspberry, pear and plum. Botanically, the strawberry, just like fig and pineapple, is a false fruit also known as an accessory fruit. The tiny pips that appear on the flesh of the fruit, are the actual ‘true fruits’ and called ‘achenes’.
In addition to the strawberry, the soft fruit family also consists of berries, blackberry, raspberry, grape, melon and rose hip. This group is also called berry fruits. It is characteristic that these fruits do not have a real skin or skin. It is a delicate fruit that must be eaten / processed almost immediately.
There are many varieties of strawberry found commercially in the UK and Ireland, with the Elsanta variety being the most readily available and popular. It produces high yield and attractive fruit, but can be susceptible to disease, which is why the strawberry industry is always working on a variety that can overcome these barriers, whilst still tasting delicious for the consumer. As growing technology advances and the climate changes, the growing season can start as early April and end as late as early October. There are also varieties crossed with other fruits, such as the raspberry strawberry and the pineapple strawberry. Below we show you the most commonly used strawberry varieties, along with the flavour and season.
When purchasing ingredients, it is important that you, as a chef, are able to evaluate the quality of a product and that you know how to store it correctly. Below we have outlined the most important points to consider when purchasing and storing strawberries.
The following points are important for purchasing strawberries:
- Firm flesh
- Full of bright red colour
- Glossy colour
- Smooth surface, minimal bruising
- No mould present
- Fresh green crown
- The most suitable variety for the outcome or flavour profile your wish to achieve, e.g. sweet, tart, floral, scented, juicy
Store strawberries in a wide container, so they are stacked on top of each other as little as possible. Place a folded towel on the bottom of the tray. This protects the strawberries from bruising and mould. Preferably store them at room temperature so they can then be kept for 2-3 days. In the refrigerator, they can be kept for 1 week at a temperature of 1 to 4°C.
Nutritional value. Strawberries are super healthy; they are rich in vitamin C and fibres. In addition, this fruit is rich in a range of minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium and sodium). These minerals ensure a good metabolism, bone formation and brain development. The strawberry gets its red colour from the pigment, anthocyanin. This is an antioxidant that protects the body against free radicals.
Allergens. Strawberries are not one of the official allergens. They can, however, cause an allergic reaction, such as a skin rash.
Strawberries become limp. A strawberry is full of tiny air bubbles, and its shape is maintained by the pressure of the cell contents that each cell presses against neighbouring cells. If that pressure is lost, for example, due to water loss as a result of dehydration or by freezing where the cell walls are damaged, the structure is weakened and the fruit becomes soft and mushy... Book: Harold McGee (2004) On Food and Cooking: an Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture, p. 364 - 365.
- A strawberry consists of 90% water.
- There are over 30 different strawberry varieties grown in the UK and Ireland.
- This video explains the whole cycle of strawberry production and is very clear and concise.
- Chef Paul Hollywood, a UK celebrity chef, eats a single Japanese strawberry in this video that costs £350!
- The cultivation of strawberries can take place on open ground, in a rack, in tunnels or in greenhouses.
- The strawberry is green at first, then it turns white and when the strawberry is fully ripe, it has a beautiful red colour. It takes about 8 weeks for a strawberry plant to produce delicious ripe strawberries.
- The harvest depends on the temperature, and usually takes place about six weeks after flowering. Harvesting is done entirely by hand, so as not to damage the delicate fruits. As a result, the harvest is very time consuming. After all, every strawberry bed has to be harvested several times, because not all strawberries are ripen at the same time.
- In addition to being good for your skin and hair, strawberries are also good for teeth whitening, this is because they naturally have enzyme malic acid (be warned though, too much malic acid can erode tooth enamel).
- An often-used cultivation method is to grow the strawberries at a height of 1.50 meters (in a rack or stand). This has the advantage that the strawberries cannot come into contact with the wet soil. In addition, this arrangement improves the working conditions of the pickers.
- View the strawberry components on Gastronomixs here.
All of the information above has been compiled with the greatest care, using various sources. Have you read something that you think is incorrect? If so, then please let us know and we’ll look into it.