Nothing speaks of an English summer more than strawberries and cream. It’s an iconic dish that is closely associated with garden parties, stately homes and the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. It’s one of the nostalgic images of “old” England and in fact the dish is celebrating its 510th anniversary round about now.
The strawberry has, of course, been around for a lot longer than 500 years. The writings of the Ancient Greeks and Romans refer to the wild strawberry fruit and its medicinal properties but evidence from archaeological excavations suggests that our Stone Age ancestors were already eating wild strawberries. In about the 14th century these wild plants were taken from woodlands and introduced into gardens so that they could be grown for household fruit. Charles V, King of France in 1364, must have had a particular penchant for them as 1200 strawberry plants were grown in his royal gardens. From the early 15th century the plant also pops up in illuminated manuscripts and western art, demonstrating that it was familiar – and beautiful – to our ancestors.