From Where Did Strawberries Originate?

According to historical texts from Virgil and Ovid, historians believe strawberries existed in ancient Rome and the surrounding areas, although strawberry cultivation appeared in Europe much later, during the 1300s. Strawberries exist in eight different varieties of fruit and belong to the family Rosaceae. The two most popular varieties, F. Virginia and F. Chiloensis, appeared first in the moderate climate regions of North America.

The ancient Romans and people in surrounding societies most likely consumed wild strawberries. Wild berries contain thick outer shells, and come in smaller sizes than modern berries. They also lack the robust flavor of popular strawberries. Although consumed by ancient peoples, strawberries gained popularity only in the 1300s. The French pioneered strawberry domestication by harvesting woody strawberries from forests and replanting them in domestic settings. Other Europeans followed suit and the practice spread to North America.

Europeans continued cross-breeding and improving on the taste and quality of berries, leading to the emergence of strawberry production in the United States. Americans Charles Hovey and James Wilson introduced the strawberry plant to consumers in Massachusetts during the early 1850s. Wilson, a farmer, bred Hovey's berries with several varieties, ultimately producing a palatable and popular berry. Strawberries grow throughout the U.S. as well as Europe, France, Africa, New Zealand and Australia.