Saturday, March 29, 2014

Strawberries and The Clan Fraser

"As with many of the ancient families, scribblers down through the centuries have been ever ready to establish invented or speculative origins for the Frasers. Some have stated categorically that the Scottish Frasers have derived their name from La Fresiliere in Anjou, France, while others have insisted that the name was accorded on a hot summer day when the King of France, thirsty from a day of hunting, was presented with a plate of succulent strawberries by one of his companions, who was immediately awarded with a coat of arms bearing three fraises and the command to take the name of Fraser as a surname." --  "The Outlandish Companion" by Diana Gabaldon, page 208
Of these possibilities, I believe the first one sounds most likely. However, a different, and perhaps more plausible, version of the strawberry story can be found on the Frizelle Family Tree website. However the name was derived, it isn't much of a stretch to see a similarity between the name Fraser and the French word for strawberry, "fraise." And a quick internet search for "Fraser coat of arms," will bring up numerous images that contain five-petaled strawberry flowers.

In Drums of Autumn, Jamie tells Claire this story, "Strawberries ha' always been the emblem of the clan - it's what the name meant, to start with, when a Monsieur Fresiliere came across from France wi' King William that was - and took hold of land in the Scottish mountains for his trouble."


Botanical Information

Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Fragaria
Species: F. x ananassa cultivars are grown for their fruit;
F. chiloensis (beach strawberry) F. 'Lipstick',  F. 'Pink Panda' and F. vesca (alpine strawberry) are primarily ornamental, used as ground cover.

Strawberries are not true berries; botanically speaking, they are aggregate accessory fruits.


Origin

From Wikipedia:
"The garden strawberry was first bred in Brittany, France, in the 1750s via a cross of Fragaria virginiana from eastern North America and Fragaria chiloensis, which was brought from Chile by Amedee-Francois Frezier in 1714. Cultivars of Fragaria x ananassa have replaced, in commercial production, the woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca), which was the first strawberry species cultivated in the early 17th century."
Once I read this, I had to find out the origins of M. Frezier's name and sure enough, there's a strawberry connection! (And a little different version of the Fraser family history than the one Jamie told Claire). Amedee-Francois Frezier was not a plantsman, he was a military officer, with education in mathematics, architecture and engineering. In the course of his military career, he was an explorer and a spy. He had a life of intrigue and adventure - but he is best known for bringing 5 strawberry plants from South America to France. Perhaps with a name like Frezier, that was his destiny.

Cultivation


Strawberries like well drained, yet evenly moist, slightly acidic soil.

If you plan to grow F. x ananassa varieties, buy bare root plants in early spring. If you have sandy soil and good drainage, install plants in level rows. If the drainage is not good, mound the planting rows and plant the strawberries on top - the reason for this is that the plants are susceptible to crown rot if they get too wet.

Fertilize June-bearing plants twice a season. First when new growth appears in spring and then after harvest to help the plant renew itself. Everbearing varieties appreciate light feeding throughout their growth and production cycles.

Renew your strawberry beds by cultivating the runners that are produced each year. Let those new plants replace the older ones, which should be removed after the third season. Like most plants, strawberries will not produce well if they are too crowded.

If you are interested in planting the ground cover varieties, you will find that they do well in sandy soils. They don't need a lot of care if they are happy.

Enjoy your strawberries. I know that from now on, when you see these luscious bright red fruits, you will think of our favorite red-headed hero, Jamie Fraser.

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