In the novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, the first encounter between the eponymous heroine and Sir Alec Stoke-d’Urberville involves strawberries. In the first chapter, Tess’s father learns that his poverty-stricken family is actually descended from a noble family. He sends Tess to the Stoke-d’Urbervilles to announce that the two families are related. Interested in Tess because she is young and beautiful rather than due to any family connection, Alec takes her on a tour of the family estate.
He conducted her about the lawns and flower beds, and conservatories, and thence to the fruit garden and green-houses, where he asked her if she liked strawberries.
‘Yes,’ said Tess, ‘when they come.’
‘They are already here.’ D’Urberville began gathering specimens of the fruit for her, handing them back to her as he stooped; and, presently, selecting a specially fine product of the ‘British Queen’ variety, he stood up and held it by the stem to her mouth.
‘No – no!’ she said quickly, putting her fingers between his hand and her lips. ‘I would rather take it in my own hand.’
‘Nonsense!’ he insisted; and in a slight distress she parted her lips and took it in.
Unfortunately for Tess, it is the wrong man who seduces her with strawberries. Dear reader, be careful when approached by someone wanting to feed you fruit!
To assume that the part of Fragaria x ananassa that we eat is a fruit, however, is incorrect. Botanically speaking it is the tiny seeds embedded in a strawberry that are the fruit. A member of the rose family, the strawberry reproduces asexually by sending out runners, or stolons. The English word strawberry appears to be derived from the old English streawberige, from the verb streowian, which means to strew or to spread by scattering (related to the German streuen). The strawberry plant spreads by scattering runners in all directions. An alternate old English term for the strawberry was eorðberge, or earth berry (cf. German Erdbeer).
Strawberries are indigenous to the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Many Algonquin Indian tribes (including the Chippewa) celebrate the Strawberry Moon, the first full moon in June when strawberries are ripe, which falls on June 26th this year. Below is a recipe with multiple variations that you can prepare for the Strawberry Moon.
Strawberry Moon Soup: Air and Variations
500 g strawberries (3 cups sliced)
200 g (1 cup) sour cream
500 ml (2 cups) water
2-3 Tbs honey
Purée the strawberries in a blender or food processor. Mix in the sour cream, herbs (see below), water. Add the honey. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
Variation 1: Serenity
Add 1 Tbs lavender blossoms.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) soothes and calms the nerves, reduces pain, lowers blood pressure, and relieves sleep disturbances and low spirits.
Variation 2: Fidelity
Add 6 peppermint (Mentha piperita) leaves.
Hades, the Greek god of the underworld, fell in love with the nymph Mintha. When Persephone, Hades’s wife, found out, she turned Mintha into a mint plant so that this passion would bear no fruit.
Variation 3: Serendipity
Add 6 lemon verbena leaves.
My lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) is very fragrant and from time to time various insects attempt to colonize it from the top down. Then it is time to remove the top leaves, wash off the invaders, and use the verbena. Not long ago the arrival of small black bugs led to the chance discovery that strawberries and lemon verbena go together quite well.
Variation 4: Sexuality
Add 2 large borage leaves.
Numerous websites report that a soup of strawberries, sour cream and borage (Borago officinalis)was served to newlyweds in France as an aphrodisiac. Although I have yet to find a reference to an actual text describing this, it inspired this variation.