Strawberries are the small, round fruits of a woodland perennial plant belonging to the genus Fragaria of the rose family (Rosaceae). Strawberries are native to the temperate regions of both hemispheres. They have long been enjoyed by humans as food and as objects for ornamental cultivation. The species most commonly cultivated is Fragaria x ananassa, a hybrid between the European strawberry (F. vesca) and a Chilean species (F. chiloensis). Modern cultivated varieties are derived from this hybrid.
There are more than 20 wild species of the genus Fragaria, all of which have capsular fruits containing numerous tiny seeds on the outside surface. Each species is adapted to its own particular range of environmental conditions. The most important commercial variety is the common strawberry (F. x ananassa). Other cultivated varieties are F. nubicola, southeastern Asian origin; F. cuneifolia, from Mexico to Brazil; and F. virginiana, from eastern North America.
Strawberries are particularly delicate in flavour, and their aroma is highly distinctive. The fruit has a succulence that makes it pleasant to eat fresh. Strawberries vary widely in size and colouring; the smallest kinds may be only 1–2 mm (0.04–0.08 inch) in diameter, while others reach 12 cm (almost 5 inches). The plant's runners, or stolons, may be as long as 1 metre (about 3 feet).
Strawberries are sold commercially both with and without caps; the stems may be attached or detached. The berries are often picked by hand and thus usually marketed fresh. They must be kept refrigerated and should be eaten as soon as possible after harvesting.
The main commercial growers of strawberries are in temperate zones, and production has been increasing steadily with the expansion of greenhouses and the reduction in the number of frosts each winter; there is now a year-round supply. Fresh strawberries require temperatures between 0° and 4 °C (32° and 39 °F); they are very sensitive to chilling injury, and the commercial crop is grown at higher temperatures with protection from the sun. In-home gardens, strawberries can be grown in containers on a sunny, sheltered patio.
Strawberries can be used as a flavoring for desserts or drinks or preserved in sugar syrup (frozen strawberries) and crystallized ginger (stems). The leaves are made into strawberry tea. Strawberry Vinegar is prepared by macerating the berries in malt vinegar; the oil of wild strawberries is a perfume distilled from the plants.
Strawberry plants are among the most difficult to grow organically. They do not fare well in a climate with hot summers, because they flower best when day and night temperatures are equal. In regions where there is little winter chilling, the plants grow poorly and fruit production may be inefficient or poor. However, many modern strawberry cultivars have been bred to be resistant to low temperatures, enabling them to be grown in northern latitudes. Strawberry plants are propagated by runners or stolons. The plantlets that form along the runners may be removed and transplanted to another site, generating a new plant. The time from planting of rooted cuttings to production of marketable fruit is about three years.
Strawberries are rich in vitamin C, containing more than 100 mg per 100 g. They also contain carotenes (provitamin A), calcium, potassium, iron, folic acid, and flavonol glycosides. Strawberries are often canned or made into jams, preserves, pies, ice cream, milk shakes, liqueurs, vodka, wine (see strawberry wine), and other beverages. Strawberry extracts are used in cosmetics. The fruit is a good source of natural antioxidants.
Global strawberry production
Strawberries are produced in many countries around the world. The top strawberry-producing countries are China, Turkey, Egypt, Spain, Italy, and the United States. Strawberries are versatile fruit that can be used in many different dishes. They can be eaten fresh, made into jam, or used as a topping for cakes and ice cream.
China is the leading producer of strawberries in the world. In 2016, China produced 1.3 million metric tons of strawberries. The majority of strawberries grown in China are consumed domestically. However, a small portion of the crop is exported to other countries, such as Japan and South Korea.
Turkey is the second-largest strawberry producer in the world. In 2016, Turkey produced 1.2 million metric tons of strawberries. The majority of Turkish strawberries are grown in the Black Sea region. Strawberries grown in this region are typically smaller and more tart than other varieties of strawberries.
Egypt is the third-largest strawberry producer in the world. In 2016, Egypt produced 1 million metric tons of strawberries. The majority of Egyptian strawberries are grown in the Nile Delta region. These strawberries are typically larger and sweeter than other varieties of strawberries.
Spain is the fourth-largest strawberry producer in the world. In 2016, Spain produced 0.9 million metric tons of strawberries. Spanish strawberries are grown in a variety of regions, including Andalusia, Murcia, and Valencia. Spanish strawberries are typically small and sweet.
Italy is the fifth-largest strawberry producer in the world. In 2016, Italy produced 0.7 million metric tons of strawberries. Italian strawberries are grown in a variety of regions, including Tuscany, Veneto, and Piedmont. Italian strawberries are typically large and sweet.
The United States is the sixth-largest strawberry producer in the world. In 2016, the United States produced 0.6 million metric tons of strawberries. The majority of American strawberries are grown in California. These strawberries are typically large and sweet. American strawberries are also grown in Oregon, Washington, Florida, and Georgia.