This is a genus of fruit-bearing herbaceous plants, of which there are few in the vegetable kingdom that can equal the Strawberry in wholesomeness and excellence. The fruit is supposed to receive its name from the ancient practice of laying straw between the rows, which keeps the ground moist and the fruit clean. They are natives of temperate, or cold climates, as of Europe and America. The fruit, though termed a berry, is, in correct botanical language, a fleshy receptacle, studded with seeds. It is universally grateful alone, or with sugar, cream, or wine, and has the property, so valuable for acid stomachs, of not undergoing the acetous fermentation. Physicians concur in placing Strawberries in their small catalogue of pleasant remedies; as having properties which render them, in most conditions of the animal frame, positively salutary; they dissolve the tartareous incrustations of the teeth, and promote perspiration. Persons afflicted with the gout have found relief from using them very largely; so have patients in case of the stone; and Hoffman states, that he has known consumptive people cured by them. The bark of the root is astringent.
In cultivating the Strawberry, an open situation and rich loamy soil, rather strong, is required for most varieties; and from their large mass of foliage and flowers, they must, till the fruit is set, have copious supplies of water. The row culture is best calculated to produce fruit; and frequent renewal insures vigorous plants, as well as large fruit. Some plant them in single rows, from twelve to eighteen inches apart, according to the sorts; others form a bed with four rows. If several beds be intended, a space of two or three feet may be left between each bed as a path; and in the second or third season, the paths may be manured and dug to admit of the runners taking root; by this means, a renewal may be made so often, and the old stools being taken away, leaves spaces between the beds as before. Or new plantations may be made every season; because, after the roots are fairly established, they multiply spontaneously, as well by suckers from the parent stem, as by numerous runners; all of which, rooting and forming a plant at every joint, require only removal to a spot where there is room for them to flourish. If taken off, and planted in rows in August and September, they will produce fine fruit the following season, and will bear in full perfection the second summer; some, however, prefer spring planting, which answers very well, if done in damp weather.
A plantation of the Alpine yields fruit the same year that it is made. The Wood and the Alpine are often cultivated from seed, which generally produces fine fruit. The other species are uniformly propagated by offsets, except the intention be to try for new varieties. The Alpine and Wood species may be planted in situations rather cool and shady, in order that they may produce their fruit late in the season, which is desirable. The Strawberry, with a little trouble of choosing a succession of sorts, may be forced so as to be had at the dessert every month in the year; though, during the winter months, they have not much flavour.
Some gardeners lay straw an inch or two thick over their beds in March, and set fire to it, in order to promote a stocky growth of plants and early fruit; others recommend mowing off the tops of such as are not required to fruit early, while they are in blossom, with a view to obtain a crop of Strawberries late in the season.
The London Horticultural Catalogue contains the names of about one hundred and fifty varieties of all the species, which are classed according to their nature, colour, etc. Class 1. Scarlet Strawberries; 2. Black Strawberries; 3. Pine Strawberries; 4. Chili Strawberries; 5. Hautbois Strawberries; Green Strawberries; 7. Alpine and Wood Strawberries. To select all the most esteemed from this, or any other extensive catalogue, is a difficult task; the following description of species and varieties may serve to direct the choice:-