Monday, 5 August 2013

Who's for strawberries?

 Monday Moments - Strawberries and who is eating them is my topic for the day.

I’m looking at my healthy breakfast of strawberries and yoghurt. I love both and really enjoy it when strawberries are in season. I used to have a large strawberry patch in my garden when my daughters were younger and around to eat them straight from the plants.

When said daughters first flew from the nest, as students, a lot of my strawberries ended up in the freezer and sometimes stayed there till the next year- along with the packages of other vegetables that were not eaten when freshly picked. It was time for me to rationalise my time and effort producing what was a large surplus. The result was my vegetable and fruit garden was replaced with another grassed area surrounded by shrubs. A few strawberry runners were put into pots and retained though the yield is very small now.

My best time for picking is generally around the last two weeks of July and the first two weeks of August. So, that means right now are my lucky weeks!

Having this strawberry breakfast made me think about what my characters would be eating in my recently submitted historical manuscripts.

Almost 2000 years ago in northern Britannia would strawberries have been available? 

The answer would seem to be that it is entirely possible that my characters would have been able to consume wild strawberries when in season, though not the cultivar variety which grows in my garden, or those on sale in shops today. Those fleshier varieties have been cross bred mainly since the 1700s when samples were brought to Europe from the northern and southern Americas.
most of the big ones were picked for my breakfast!
I have no idea which variety my strawberries are since they have been in the garden for decades, now mainly in pots, but these fleshier fruits would not have been the ones my Celts and Romans would have picked.  

wikimedia commons
The wild strawberryfragaria vesca- has been available to man since the stone age and since it grows naturally in the northern hemisphere could have been picked by my Celtic characters. Near their own hillfort they would have known the best places to garner them and when would have been the most likely time to do this. When my characters travel north into what is modern day 'Scotland' they would be doing a bit of 'opportune' picking if travelling through an area where some wild strawberries were at a peak time for picking. 

Those in my novels who are of Roman descent would also have been partial to a strawberry or two if they found themselves anywhere around them on campaign in northern Britannia. 

The season for strawberry picking for my Celts or Romans would naturally have been a short one, dependant on the late spring/ early summer weather setting the flowers into fruits, though some time and effort would likely have been made to pick them from woodlands and natural hedgerows.

Wild strawberries are also sometimes named as woodland strawberries, Alpine strawberry, European strawberry - all of which produce edible fruits.

As for the yoghurt?  I know my Celtic and Roman characters would have drunk fresh milk from cow, goat and sheep and they would have made some into cheese, but I have uncovered no evidence yet about them making some form of yoghurt. 

Perhaps you would know?

If you do, please leave a comment for me since I'd love the answer!


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