Strawberries

I’m having a quite a bit of difficulty finding additional information about strawberries. I’m not sure if it’s just me or there really isn’t that much out there, although I’m sure it’s just me.  I found a whole bunch of information about fruit pulps.  Has anyone else found any good references for strawberries since our last meeting?

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Detail from “Spring” by Pieter Brueghel the Younger c.1630

I also found this painting in Flowers of the Renaissance by Celia Fisher. In this painting the subjects aren’t planting vegetables but it gives a good look at the techniques and tools they used for gardening.  Here they are preparing the flower beds but many of the same tools and techniques were used to prepare for vegetable  gardens. Nonetheless, it still gives you an idea of how people gardened in the RenaImageissance era. 

Strawberries

I found this great book, “Flowers of the Renaissance” by Celia Fisher. Too bad we weren’t focusing on flowers of the Renaissance as much as vegetables. Regardless, this book was very intererestiing. It gave a brief history of the flowers and gardens of the Renaissance era.  It also explained the different meanings of the native flowers and gave examples of each flower in the paintings of that era. Although I am not able to use a lot of the information about the different flowers, I am able to give some information about strawberries. Wild strawberries in Europe were very plentiful and grew like grass. They could be seen on lawns or in gardens between the flowers. As stated in the book, “Two species of European strawberries provided the beloved little fruits that could be gathered wild or cultivated in gardens” (pg. 151). During the 17th century, a new type of strawberry was introduced to Europe from the New World. Over time, these strawberries were hybridized and had larger fruits.  The flavor of the wild strawberries were much sweeter than the larger hybrid strawberries. The different symbolic meanings of strawberries discussed in this book were very interesting.  Strawberries symbolized lust and temptation. Also they represented a more religious meaning. “The white flowers and red fruit stood for purity and for Christ’s redeeming blood. The three parts of a strawberry leaf reflected the doctrine of the Trinity, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were distinct entities joined in one God” (pg. 149). The book also shows many Renaissance paintings where strawberries were used to symbolize different things. A great painting shown in this book is Allegory of Summer by Lucas van Valckenborch, c.1595 (shown below). Strawberries may not have been the main source of sustenance in the Renaissance but I believe they had some significance in the daily lives of the people. Image

Diving into the Research

My research has been going great so far. I’ve been reading a lot of sources that deal with all different aspects of gardening in the Renaissance era. The most informational source I’ve found so far is Locus Amoenus: Gardens and Horticulture in the Renaissance edited by Alexander Samson. I am still in the process of reading the 200 page book but I found the first chapter most interesting.  The first chapter talks about herbal and botany in the Renaissance. It discusses more the texts that were used for herbal in that era and also the authors’ ongoing works.  This chapter offers very little information about what types of herbs they used for medicine but it gave a lot of information about the books they used. I have begun to look up the mentioned texts in the chapter and their authors and I plan on further discussing that in another entry. The first herbal texts weren’t very descriptive and they omitted a lot of information about where the herbs were to be found and how to manage them. As time progressed, the texts became a more and more detailed.  Also, at this time there were unclear classifications for plants.

“There were no distinct concepts of genus, species, or variety, let alone higher-order classifications like family. From  Lobel onwards, a variety of classification schemes was tried, but until the mid-seventeenth century most herbalists were content to group plants by a mixture of criteria; medical, morphological, utilitarian, and sometimes etymological” (27).

This chapter also discusses the progression of the plant illustrations. The beginning images hardly resembled the plants they were representing.  The images were very vague and were based off of memory and description than the artist’s observations. 

I will be basing further research off of the texts mentioned in this chapter. I am hoping the texts from this era will give me more insight on the plants they used and how created they vegetable gardens.  I am hoping that the rest of this book will help me with my research.