Without a doubt, strawberries have to be one of the most popular fruits, worldwide. While Americans are quite besotted with them, it is Wepion, Belgium that declares itself the world’s strawberry capital, having grown the luscious red berry for more than 150 years. There is even a local beer made from them, called Wepionnaise. All of this lead to what is the only museum anywhere, dedicated solely to the fruits of the low-growing plant that belongs to the apple family.
Back at home though, strawberries also continue to lead the fruit hit parade, with 94% of American households enjoying its delights each Spring. In fact, per capita, Americans consume 3.4lbs. of fresh fruit and another 1.8lbs. of frozen strawberries every year. In a survey of 7-9 year old discriminating gourmets, 53% chose the strawberry as their favorite fruit.
Throughout history, the strawberry has enjoyed a checkered career, being used for everything from an aphrodisiac to a good luck charm. Ancient Romans used it for a cure-all, and treated a long list of ailments with the juice and pulp, including throat infections, kidney stones, gout and bad breath. Some country dwellers in Bavaria still practice the Spring ritual of tying a small basket of wild strawberries to the horns of their cattle, in the believe that elves favored the fruit, and would grant them healthy calves and a good milk yield.
And in one of its quirkier incarnations, Madame Tallien, a well-known figure during the reign of Napoleon, believed bathing in strawberry juice was good for the skin. It took 22 pounds of them for milady’s ablutions.