Strawberries and the science behind them

As Michigan strawberries are coming into season, June is a great time to explore plant science at the dinner table.

June is here and with all the fun summer festivities, now is a great time to do some dinner table or picnic table plant science. With backyard gardens and farmer’s markets brimming with freshly picked produce, it is the perfect time to try new fruits and vegetables, making summer a ripe and tasty time for learning. Learning more about the foods we eat, how they grow, where they come from and teaching kids a little plant science can make for a great summer time activity for the young and old.

Strawberries, one of everyone’s early summer favorites, is a great place to begin. Here are a few fun strawberry facts:

  • Native strawberries were reported to have been found on the coastlines of North and South America.
  • Native strawberries were taken from Chile to France in 1712. They were crossed with European strawberries, resulting in the large berries we eat today.
  • Strawberries grow in every state in the United States and every province in Canada.
  • Native Americans ate strawberries fresh or baked in cornbread.
  • Ancient Romans thought strawberries had medicinal properties and used them to treat depression, fever, kidney stones, bad breath and sore throats.
  • Strawberries are members of the rose family.
  • Strawberries are perennials, coming up year after year and bear fruit for about five years.
  • Strawberries are the only fruit with seeds on the outside of the fruit. The average berry has about 200 seeds.
  • Strawberries are not true berries like blueberries or grapes. Technically, berries have to have seeds on the inside. Plant scientists, also known as botanists, consider each seed on a strawberry to be its own separate fruit.
  • Americans eat an average of 3.5 pounds of fresh strawberries each year, and another two pounds of frozen berries.
  • Strawberries are low in calories. There are 55 calories in 1 cup of berries.
  • Strawberries have high levels of nitrate. This increases blood and oxygen flow to the muscles. Research shows that people who eat strawberries before exercising have greater endurance and burn more calories.
  • Eight strawberries provide 140 percent of the daily recommended vitamin C for kids.
  • Some research has shown strawberries reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
  • Strawberries are high in vitamins C, B6 and K, fiber, folic acid, potassium and amino acids.

Strawberries for Strawberry Lovers is a good website about strawberries with great pictures of the different parts of the berry.

Cook-A-Doodle-Doo cover“Cook-A-Doodle-Doo!” by Janet Stevens and Susan Steven Crummel is a great book to read to children during strawberry season. In this book, four animal friends set out to make strawberry short cake, even though none of the animals know how to cook. The story is full of funny animal antics as they make what they call the “most magnificent short cake.” A recipe at the end of the story is provided so you too can make the most magnificent shortcake with your kids.

I hope reading this has got your taste buds tingling and ready to get some fresh Michigan berries. If you do not have strawberries growing in your garden, a U-pick farm is only a search away. You can find U-pick locations near you at U-Pick Michigan and Michigan – Pick Your Own.

Enjoy June and some Michigan strawberries!

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