Strawberry, or Fragaria, a genus of plants, comprehending three species, two of which are indigenous ; but the principal is the vesca, or Common Strawberry, growing in woods, hedges, and hollow ways; where its flowers appear in the month of May or June; and are succeeded by small red fruit. The plant is eaten by sheep and goats, but is not relished by cows; and is totally refused by horses and swine.
The common Strawberry is the parent-stock from which all the different varieties have been obtained by culture : the most remarkable of these, are:
1. The Wood-Strawberry, with oblong serrated leaves, and small white, round fruit. - 2. The Green, or Pine-apple Strawberry, which has received this name from its delicate flavour, resembling that of the Pine-apple. - 3.The Scarlet, or Virginian Strawberry, which has also oval, serrated leaves, and bean a roundish berry, of a deep scarlet colour. - 4. The Hautboy, or Musk Strawberry, is a native of America, but has long been raised in British gardens : it is remarkable for its rough spear-shaped leaves, and its large pale-red fruit. - 5. The Chili Strawberry has oval, thick hairy leaves, large flowers, and firm berries. - 6. The Alpine Strawberry, has small oval leaves, diminutive flowers, and oblong, pointed fruit, of a moderate size. - 7. The Monthly, or Ever-flowering Strawberry, originally a French va-riety, produces very delicate fruit, generally pointed towards the top, and bulky below; being in season from May to November: the plant itself, however, is very small, has diminutive leaves, and furnishes but few off-sets for transplantation. All the varieties of this vegetable are hardy, perennial plants, which flower in May and June, producing perfect fruit in June, July. August, and even till November. They may be propagated by planting off-sets, or suckers, in any light, rich garden-soil, where they annually yield abundant crops, if properly weeded, and supplied with moisture. Their fertility, however, will be considerably increased, by transplanting them every second year into fresh beds, that have previously been dug, or otherwise prepared for their reception.
As the Strawberry is one of the moat exhausting plants, and requires ample nourishment, all weeds growing in its vicinity should be carefully removed. Hence It will be found, that the earth in which an old stock has grown, undisturbed for several years, on digging up its roots, in a manner resembles wood-ashes ; because it is deprived of all the soluble parts.
Without entering into a minute account of the culture of this useful plant, we shall briefly remark, 1. That the most proper season for transplanting strawberries, is in the month of August; when they will have sufficient time to take root before the winter: 2. Thar it is not advisable either to clip or break offthe superfluous shoots, but to wind them around the principal stem, and secure the ends between the stalks 5 by which simple method, the plant will be supported in an erect situation, and the fruit be preserved from the ravages of vermin, as well as from being soiled on the ground : 3. To promote the growth of the berries, the contiguous earth around the stocks ought to be covered in the spring with tanners' waste; or, where this cannot be easily procured, with oyster-shells : thus, all weeds will be effectually suppressed, and an uniform beneficial moisture may be ensured. Lastly, when the first rudiments of the fruit appear, the soil ought to be carefully stirred by the hoe, and then manured with the following composition, that will remarkably contribute to its fertility. Take three parts of old rotten dung, one part of soot, and a similar portion of dry soap-boilers' ashes; mix them thoroughly, and spread this compost loosely by the hand, so that the newly-moved ground may be superficially covered.
There is another, and more advantageous, method of propagating strawberries by the seed: it was originally recommended by Du Hamel, and has been carried to great perfection by Du ChesnE. The seeds, consisting of small oblong, dark red-brown grains, should be collected from the surface of the most perfeCt, ripe berries, which have almost become dry on the stalk; and be preserved till the succeeding spring ; when they ought to be uniformly mixed with a little dry mould, and sown in a loose, rich garden soil, which is properly worked, and levelled with the rake. Next, it will be useful to sift finely pulverized earth, or rotten dung, over the beds, to the thickness of half-a-crown piece only, and to cover the whole with branches or boughs of fir-trees. In the course of three weeks, the young plants will appear, when the covering ought to be removed, and the branches set upright along the borders of the beds; in order to shelter the tender sprouts from the influence of the meridian sun. Others sow the strawberry-seed in August, and protect the young germs with mats suspended over the beds, by means of poles. The plants, thus raised, ought to be carefully weeded and watered: those reared in the spring, may be transplanted in the autumn of the same year; but, when sown in the latter season, they must remain in the seed-bed till the following summer. This mode of cultivating strawberries possesses many advantages over the usual practice; thus, it will be easy to obtain the most delicate foreign sorts, of which it would otherwise be difficult to procure off-sets ; nay, by sowing the seed of degenerated sorts, to-L 3 gether gether with those of superior fruit, many new and excellent varieties will result from such combination.
Du Chesne has made the following curious experiments, on the propagation of strawberries from their seeds: He directed the water in which this fruit had been washed, before it was used at table, to be thrown in a shaded corner of his garden, where the soil had been manured with rotten branches and leaves : in this manner, he obtained very beautiful plants for an extensive piece of ground. On covering the beds, over which such seed had been scattered, with connected pieces of the moss growing on trees, and removing the latter, when the plants had acquired 2 or 3 leaves, he obtained excellent crops. In March, 1764, strawberry-seeds were scattered on patches of moss (Gateaux de mousse), in pots placed under the windows of a hot-bed: these afforded the most vigorous plants. For such purpose, he principally employed the Hypnum triquetrum, or Triangular Feather-moss, which grows on damp meadows, fields, and hedges: it should, however, be remarked, that Du Chesne, in all his experiments, found it necessary to moisten the earth, or moss, several times every day, till the plants appeared above ground.
Lastly, M. Mallet has likewise (Bibliotheque Physico-Econo-mique, for 1798) strongly supported this method of propagating strawberries from the seed ; and he observes, that they should be covered with straw, or light branches of trees, and regularly watered two or three times in 24 hours, to ensure a plentiful crop: the covering ought to be removed only after the plants have acquired the fourth leaf; and the irrigation should be continued till the latter end of June. He concludes with remarking, that strawberries thus raised, are extremely productive ; and, if planted on beds Jive feet wide, are greatly superior to those produced from off-sets, or suckers.
In situations, however, where early strawberries are an object of attention, Dr. Anderson directs them to be planted in pots, which may be arranged in flat pans made of milled iron ; and these again placed on a wooden frame, sufficiently strong to support their weight. From each corner of such frame, a rope is to be passed upwards, over a pulley fixed to the rafters of a hot-house, constructed according to his plan, whence the rope may be drawn horizontally to other pullies fixed in a similar manner, and be carried from these over a cylinder turning upon an axis; so that the whole of the frame, together with the pots and pans, may be elevated, or lowered, at pleasure. Thus, the po's may be raised, till they are brought closely under the glass of the ceiling ; which, being the warmest part of the building, will cause the plants to vegetate with the greatest luxuriance. He farther observes, that the pots may be supplied with water, by pouring it into the pans, without lowering them; and, as the berries gradually ripen, they may be gathered, and the frames again suspended.
Strawberries are a wholesome, delicious fruit; and may be eaten alone, with sugar, or with milk, but most agreeably with wine : they have a pleasant sub-acid taste; abound with juice ; and possess a fragrant smell. Being of a coolmg and laxative nature, they may be considered as medicinal; and Linnaeus observes that, by his own experience, a copious use of this fruit has proved a certain preventive of the Stone in the. Kidneys. Hoffman states, that consumptive patients have been completely cured by a liberal allowance of these, berries. Farther, they promote perspiration ; impart their peculiar fragrance, together with a violet colour, to the urine ; and dissolve tartarous concretions on the teeth. In domestic economy, a palatable jam, wine, and vinegar, are prepared from this fruit.
An infusion of the strawberry-leaves, while young and tender, makes excellent tea; but, for such purpose, they ought to be dried in the shade : being slightly bitterish and styptic they have been used with advantage in laxity and debility of the intestines; in immoderate secretions, or suppressions of the natural evacuations, as likewise in hemorrhages and other fluxes. Lastly, they are of considerable service as aperients, in suppressions of urine ; visceral obstructions ; the jaundice, and many other complaints.