Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

'Ideal conditions' for strawberries

Strawberries are a staple of the Wimbledon Championships

Strawberries are the fruit that evokes the happiest memories, according to a study - and Andy Murray fans will be hoping their portion of strawberries and cream will do just that.

They are a staple of Wimbledon fortnight, and tennis fans can look forward to strawberries of a high quality and exceptional flavour, due to ideal ripening conditions with the weather throughout most of May bringing temperatures often higher than in Ibiza and Cannes.

High light levels and the moderate temperatures have resulted in a vintage crop, British Summer Fruits (BSF) said.

BSF, the industry body that represents 98% of berries in supermarkets, said that not only has there been an earlier and larger crop of British strawberries but consumers can also expect them to taste sweeter and juicier than normal.

With strawberries and cream one of the best-known elements of the SW19 Grand Slam, at least 28 tonnes of strawberries are expected to be eaten over the championship, slathered with more than 7,000 litres of fresh cream.

Around 8,615 punnets will be consumed every day during the tournament, with a punnet of 10 costing £2.50.

Meanwhile, the University of London's Centre for the Study of the Senses has found strawberries strongly awaken all the senses and are the fruit that evoke the most positive memories.

Some 44% of people said these were happy memories, 30% said these memories were relaxing, and 10% said they were exciting.

The study of 142 people found 77% said the aroma of a fresh strawberry immediately triggers summer memories, while 64% said it prompts thoughts of sunshine.

People are eating more strawberries than ever. Earlier this month BSF said 12,141 tonnes of strawberries had been sold, compared to 2,816 tonnes at the same time last year - more than four times as many.

And Wimbledon fortnight is always a peak selling period for British strawberries.

Laurence Olins, BSF chairman, said: "It's remarkable if you compare where we are now to 20 years ago. Back then the strawberry season was six weeks long - June and the first two weeks in July.

"The season conveniently reached its peak during Wimbledon fortnight, hence the tradition of strawberries and cream on centre court.

"Now, with decades of investment in protective covers and new varieties that taste better, keep longer and grow better, the British strawberry season is eight months long.

"We grow enough to be self-sufficient during the summer months - we predict we'll pick about 51,000 tonnes this year."

The Study of the Senses research also found that 25% of people associate strawberries with the smell of freshly cut grass rather than strawberries and cream chosen by 16% of people.

The scientists wanted to investigate the link between emotions, taste and smell to find the next "sensorial hit" to catch the attention of the foodie world.

Professor Barry Smith, sensory expert from the University of London, said: "More than any other sense, smell can evoke powerful, emotional memories.

"Strawberries have been shown to trigger nostalgic summer memories, because people usually see them as a seasonal treat.

"Despite the fact that strawberries and cream is one of the most popular food combinations, the majority of people associate British strawberries with the waft of freshly mown grass so top chefs are already creating recipes to conjure these aromas."

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