Season of Bright and Berry
Since the time of the Romans, humans have been bending their backs and extending their arms to reach down and pluck red strawberries from their extended straw-like runners. These berries were much more like the wild variety strawberries at that time, like those that now grow along the borders of our backyards and woodlands.
In the early 1800s, botanical experiments began to take place throughout the American South, all with the intention of creating a larger, juicier and brighter red strawberry. From Virginia to Georgia, improved varieties rapidly grew in popularity and in people’s gardens, with each geographic region boasting their very own variety that most suited for their climate and soil. Large plantings of berries dominated the fields of the Lowcountry in South Carolina throughout the mid to late 1800s. As with many other crops, the mild weather and early spring of the Lowcountry brought on ripe berries to supply market demand weeks before they would start showing red in other regions.
A market surplus of berries at the beginning of the 18th century shifted the crimson production of berries out of South Carolina and into areas outside of Norfolk, Virginia, and southern Georgia. Acreage continued to increase in these regions for the next few decades, as did the continued work on improving berry varieties for size and durability. In the 1950s, most commercial strawberry production had moved into the central valley of California, which now produces over 80 percent of our nation’s strawberries, to supply fruit for our never ending taste for these flavorful red orbs. But the chances are that with every bite of a California strawberry, there are little bits of genetic material and flavor from those very early varieties grown along the South Carolina coast.
Now with over 600 varieties of strawberries being grown, a lot of which are propriety to larger producers, it is quite possible that every time bite into a berry, you might be tasting a new variety. However, strawberry production continues in the South, less canvassing than it once was, but nevertheless allows us the opportunity to slow down and savor the season. These fruits turn from white to pink to red in March throughout Georgia and the Carolinas and travels north with the warm air into Virginia as the summer season progresses.
SEASONAL STRAWBERRY RECIPES
- by TLP's Partners
- by Erin Byers Murray
- by TLP's Partners