Latin name: Fragaria spp.
Other names: fraises des bois
Uses: fruit, confections, alcohol

Long a symbol of purity and innocence, strawberries are the world’s favorite berry. Though they technically aren’t even a real berry — they’re an aggregate accessory fruit (the fleshy part grows from the flower’s receptacle, not the ovaries and the “seeds” are the actual fruits) — only a pedant (or a botanist) would deny strawberry’s rightful place in the berry bowl.

Why is strawberry healthy? 

The beloved strawberry grows low to the ground but is sky high in antioxidants, Vitamins A and C, and fiber. Research shows that the unique combination of phytonutrients in strawberries plays a role in cancer protection, diabetes prevention, blood sugar control, and cardiovascular health. It is important to buy organic strawberries, as they are one of the most chemically sprayed foods of all.

What does strawberry taste like? 

A ripe strawberry is a treat: a transcendent moment of sweetness and umami, bright acidity, and a slightly rosy, almost tropical fragrance. Strawberries’ flavor and aroma come from an organic compound called furaneol (aka strawberry furanone, a chemical widely used in the perfume and flavor industries); the main flavors associated with this chemical can be attributed to the effect of the Maillard reaction — burnt sugar, caramel, cotton candy, and honey — but the aroma is also derived in part by the fact that strawberries are a member of the rose family.

Where does strawberry grow? 

People have been growing them in their home gardens since the 1300s, but wild strawberries — consisting of more than twenty species — grow throughout the world’s temperate regions. In North America, the plants grow in forests, subalpine mountainous areas, and on the coast. The flavor of wild strawberries is unrivaled, though breeding efforts have created varieties that can approximate the balance of sweetness and acidity in a fruit that can be grown more affordably as a cash crop.

How do I prepare strawberry and what do I pair it with? 

You can certainly glacé them to your little heart’s content, but honestly there is no better way to eat strawberries than straight up, either with cake and whipped mascarpone as a strawberry shortcake; drizzled with a balsamic reduction; or onto salads with nuts and crumbly white cheeses. For a modern spin on a strawberry shortcake, pulverize freeze-dried strawberries and sprinkle this intense flavor-bomb powder onto white chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies.

You probably know how well strawberries pair with rhubarb, and dairy (like ice cream), and other dessert-facing flavors like vanilla, almond, and Grand Marnier. But they also love black pepper, wine, and olive oil, and in Italy they’re often served with a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar.

Surprising fact: 

The sublime flavor of a perfectly ripe strawberry is best summarized by William Butler, the 17th-century English writer: "Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did."