Origin and History:
Strawberries have been known since Roman times and are said to have been first cultivated in Brittany, France in the 18th century and then in the later half of the 18th century as a cross breed between a North American and a Chilean variety. They are grown in most parts of the world and numerous varieties of the plant exist. BBC GoodFood says that in 1714, a French engineer commissioned to Chile and Peru, observed that the strawberry native to those regions was much larger than those found in Europe. He decided to bring back a sample of this strawberry to cultivate in France. The end result was a large, juicy, sweet hybrid (the modern garden strawberry) that became extremely popular in Europe.
Wikipedia says that “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 combination of strawberries and cream was created by Thomas Wolsey in the court of King Henry VIII.”
Making the Strawberry PoppySeed Dressing
The recipe below Dressing is an easy one and enhances the flavours of several leafy salads, such as my Marinated Kale Mango Salad. The dressing should be used when fresh, and chilled before serving. Not only does it look and taste good but has several health and nutrient benefits.
1.Use the best quality ingredients when selecting the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey, to get the full flavours of this delicious salad dressing.
2. Check that the poppy seeds are fresh, otherwise they will affect the taste of the dressing.
3. Check the strawberries for bruises or for grey patches in the skin, cut them out before you make the strawberry poppyseed dressing.
For a variation, make the Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing with garlic instead of chia seeds (or add garlic as an additional ingredient) and substitute White vinegar for the Balsamic.
Culinary Uses of Strawberries:
Wikipedia says that Strawberries can be taken fresh, or frozen, made into jams, preserves, or dried and used in prepared foods, such as cereal bars. Strawberries and strawberry flavorings are a popular addition to dairy products, such as strawberry- flavored milk, strawberry ice cream, milkshakes, smoothies and yogurts. Strawberries and cream is a popular dessert during the British summer, famously consumed at the Wimbledon tennis tournament.
In Sweden, strawberries are a traditional dessert served on Midsummer Eve. In some countries, strawberry pies, strawberry rhubarb pies, or strawberry shortcake are also popular. In Greece, strawberries are sprinkled with sugar and then dipped in Metaxa, a famous brandy, and served as a dessert. In Italy, strawberries have been used for various desserts and as a popular flavoring for gelato.
Leaves can be eaten raw, cooked or used to make tea.
One of the best tasting strawberry jams I have had is from a tea plantation in Southern India, where the jam has whole strawberries which melt in your mouth. I have also enjoyed a morning of strawberry picking with my granddaughter Tamma, at Connecticut.
Recipes to use Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing in:
Dandelion Greens, Mango and Couscous Salad. Link to the recipe is here
Marinated Kale Mango Salad. Link to the recipe is here
Health and Nutrition from Strawberries:
Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamins C and K as well as being rich in fibre, folic acid, manganese and potassium and lesser quantities of other vitamins. Strawberries contain significant amounts of phytonutrients and flavanoids which gives them their bright red colour. The vibrant red is due to large amounts of anthocyanidin, which also means they contain powerful antioxidants and are thought to protect against inflammation, cancer and heart disease. The berries are said to have been used throughout history as a medicine for digestive ailments, teeth whitening and skin irritations.
Poppy seeds or khus khus as they are known in India, were used as a condiment in cooking, since the time of the Ancient Egyptians. Through the Arab traders, opium cultivation spread to Persia, ancient Khorasan, and India. Today, seeds of poppy is a well established commercial crop in many parts of the world including Czech Republic, Germany, Turkey, France, India, and East European region.
However, poppy seeds are nutritious oilseeds and though they are obtained from the dry pods of the opium poppy, they are considered safe enough to use as food and contain negligible quantities of toxic alkaloids of the opium poppy.
Poppy seeds contain many plant derived chemical compounds that found to have anti-oxidant, disease preventing and health promoting properties. Their unique nutty aromatic flavor is due to fatty acids and essential volatile oils, which comprise about 50% of their net weight. The seeds are especially rich in oleic and linoleic acids which help lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increase HDL or “good cholesterol” levels in the blood. The outer husk of the seed is a good source of dietary fiber. Poppy seeds are an excellent source of B-complex vitamins as well as minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and magnesium.
Chia seeds belong to the mint family and are native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. Wikipedia says that the 16th century Codex Mendoza provides evidence that it was cultivated by the Aztec in pre-Columbian times and economic historians say it may have been as important as maize as a food crop. It was given as an annual tribute by the people to the Rulers in 21 of the 38 Aztec provincial states. Ground or whole chia seeds are still used in Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Mexico, and Guatemala for nutritious drinks and food.
Chia seeds are usually added to other foods as a topping or in smoothies, breakfast cereals, energy bars, granola bars, yogurt, tortillas, and bread. Chia seed (tokhm-e-sharbatī, meaning “beverage seed”) is used to prepare a sharbat in Iran. The gel from ground seeds may be used to replace the egg content in cakes while providing other nutrients, and is a common substitute in vegan baking.
Though research is still ongoing, Chia seeds are considered to have several important nutrients. They are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to raise the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol and are a rich source of thiamine and niacin, and a moderate source of riboflavin and folate. They have high amounts of the dietary minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc.
Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing with Chia Seeds
- 1 cup Strawberry slices
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon Mustard paste
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Poppy seeds - / khus khus
- 1 teaspoon Chia seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground Pepper
- 1 pinch salt - To taste
- Gently wash the strawberries without bruising them. Hull the strawberries - ie, carefully cutaway the calyx or stem attached to the top of each strawberry.
- Slice the strawberries into quarters and put the slices in a bowl or directly into the bowl of the food processor. Add all the other ingredients one by one, except for the seasoning (salt and pepper) Run the processor/ blender until you get a smooth liquid.
- Add a pinch of salt and the fresh ground pepper, run the processor again for a few seconds. Taste and add more seasoning if required. Run the processor so the salt and pepper mix into the dressing.
- Pour the strawberry poppyseed dressing into a dry bottle, close with an airtight cap and refrigerate till required.