The garden strawberry is a widely grown hybrid species of the genus Fragaria, collectively known as the strawberries, which are cultivated worldwide for their fruit. The fruit is widely appreciated for its characteristic aroma, bright red color, juicy texture, and sweetness. It is consumed in large quantities, either fresh or in such prepared foods as jam, juice, pies, ice cream, milkshakes, and chocolates. Artificial strawberry flavorings and aromas are also widely used in products such as candy, soap, lip gloss, perfume, and many others.
The strawberry fruit was mentioned in ancient Roman literature in reference to its medicinal use. The French began taking the strawberry from the forest to their gardens for harvest in the 14th century. Charles V, France's king from 1364 to 1380, had 1,200 strawberry plants in his royal garden. In the early 15th century western European monks were using the wild strawberry in their illuminated manuscripts. The strawberry is found in Italian, Flemish, and German art, and in English miniatures. The entire strawberry plant was used to treat depressive illnesses.
The Mapuche and Huilliche Indians of Chile cultivated the female strawberry species until 1551, when the Spanish came to conquer the land. In 1765, a European explorer recorded the cultivation of F. chiloensis, the Chilean strawberry. At first introduction to Europe, the plants grew vigorously but produced no fruit. French gardeners in Brest and Cherbourg around the mid 18th century first noticed that when F. moschata and F. virginiana were planted in between rows of F. chiloensis, the Chilean strawberry would bear abundant and unusually large fruits. Soon after, Antoine Nicolas Duchesne began to study the breeding of strawberries and made several discoveries crucial to the science of plant breeding, such as the sexual reproduction of strawberry which he published in 1766. Duchesne discovered that the female F. chiloensis plants could only be pollinated by male F. moschata or F. virginiana plants. This is when the Europeans became aware that plants had the ability to produce male-only or female-only flowers.
Another method uses a compost sock. Plants grown in compost socks have been shown to produce significantly higher oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), flavonoids, anthocyanins, fructose, glucose, sucrose, malic acid, and citric acid than fruit produced in the black plastic mulch or matted row systems. Similar results in an earlier 2003 study conducted by the US Dept of Agriculture, at the Agricultural Research Service, in Beltsville Maryland, confirms how compost plays a role in the bioactive qualities of two strawberry cultivars.
To maintain top quality, berries are harvested at least every other day. The berries are picked with the caps still attached and with at least half an inch of stem left. Strawberries need to remain on the plant to fully ripen because they do not continue to ripen after being picked. Rotted and overripe berries are removed to minimize insect and disease problems. The berries do not get washed until just before consumption.
Strawberry plants can fall victim to a number of diseases, especially when subjected to stress. The leaves may be infected by powdery mildew, leaf spot (caused by the fungus Sphaerella fragariae), leaf blight (caused by the fungus Phomopsis obscurans), and by a variety of slime molds. The crown and roots may fall victim to red stele, verticillium wilt, black root rot, and nematodes. The fruits are subject to damage from gray mold, rhizopus rot, and leather rot. To prevent root-rotting, strawberries should be planted every four to five years in a new bed, at a different site.
Sweetness, fragrance and complex flavor are favorable attributes. In plant breeding and farming, emphasis is placed on sugars, acids, and volatile compounds, which improve the taste and fragrance of a ripe strawberry. Esters, terpenes, and furans are chemical compounds having the strongest relationships to strawberry flavor and fragrance, with a total of 31 out of some 360 volatile compounds significantly correlated to favorable flavor and fragrance. In breeding strawberries for the commercial market in the United States, the volatile compounds, methyl anthranilate and gamma-decalactone prominent in aromatic wild strawberries, are especially desired for their "sweet and fruity" aroma characteristics.