Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Springtime Strawberries at Riversdale House Museum


Springtime Dessert with a Focus on Strawberries

The spring 2018 season's dining room "tablescape" at Riversdale House Museum depicts a lavish dessert course which includes classic dessert service items such as cake, orange and lemon creams, olives, braised celery, Cheshire cheese, and an array of confections devoted to a classic springtime favorite, the strawberry (strawberry blancmange, strawberry tarts, and strawberries & cream). You can tour Riversdale on Friday's and Sunday's on the quarter hour from 12:15 pm to 3:15 pm.

Strawberry History
Strawberries have been known since ancient times in temperate climates around the world. Ancient Greeks and Romans had wild strawberries, and Romans such as Ovid, Virgil, and Pliny all referred to strawberries in there writings. Significantly, before Maryland was settled by Europeans, strawberries were known to Native Americans. Two of the main ancestors of today’s large strawberries are the fragaria Virginia, from the US eastern seaboard and the Chilean strawberry (f.chiloensis). French and English botanists of the 18th and 19th c. experimented with cross-breeding different varieties of strawberries, but it was the Englishman, Michael Keens, who first marketed a large fruit strawberry on July 3, 1806 called the Keen Seedling.

Strawberries in Maryland's History
Maryland soil produced bumper crops of strawberries, and they became a profitable market berry in the nineteenth-century. By 1840, Maryland-grown strawberries were being shipped from Baltimore to New York. In 1857, there was a very large strawberry farm near Annapolis that reportedly covered about six hundred acres, employed 1200 people per season, and utilized 42 horse-drawn wagons to travel to the steamboat landings to Baltimore and Philadelphia every day to get the seasonal crop of about 20,000 bushels to market. 





Sources:
  • "Improving Maryland's Agriculture, 1840-1860" by Vivian Wiser in Maryland Historical Magazine, vol. 64, number 2 (Summer, 1969)
  • Oxford English Dictionary


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