The exotic fruit

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"Doubtless god could have made a better berry, but doubtless god never did."

William Butler (1535-1618)

THE STRAWBERRY is not really a berry in the strict botanical sense. In fact, it is a rotund stem end with many tiny fruits (achenes) set in it.

In Hyderabad, fresh strawberries are still an exotic luxury, but their use as dessert fruit is slowly catching on. This delicious, sensual relative of the rose family has enchanted ancient civilisations across Asia, Europe and the Americas. The Roman philosopher, Lucius Apuleius, sang praises of its healing properties. Its rich mineral content explains why the ancient Chinese ate it to cure hangovers. The French worked it into love potions. Native Americans mixed strawberry paste with dough to make bread that was a forerunner of today's strawberry shortcake. The fruit symbolised perfection and righteousness, which is why strawberry motifs adorn most medieval pillars, altars and church walls. In 1526, the botanical classic, The Grete Herball cited that "Strawberyes eate helpeth coleryke persones, comforteth the stomake, and quencheth thyrst." Linnaeus, the 18th century Swedish botanist, recommended using it to treat gout. In modern times, using strawberries in face packs is a common practice. The alpha hydroxyl acids in the fruit pulp clean the skin without damaging it. Rubbing the pulp on mild burns may heal the injured area faster.

Should you ever need a tooth-whitener in a hurry, try rubbing some pulp on your teeth. The fruit is rich in antioxidant phytochemicals like ellagic acid and bioflavonoids. These compounds counteract the effects of toxins and chemicals that cause cancer by damaging DNA. They also prevent heart disease and strokes by preventing oxidant-damage to blood vessels.

One cup of strawberries contains only 50 Calories and the fruit is a rich source of Vitamin C, Folic acid, iron and potassium. Eight strawberries contain more Vitamin C than an orange, and will meet a fifth of your daily folate needs. Six will take care of your daily Vitamin C needs. Folate is essential for building new blood cells.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that lowers the risk of cancer. It also prevents scurvy, promotes wound healing, maintains tissue strength, and improves the absorption of iron. The pulp is also rich in fibre, including water-soluble pectin that may help keep cholesterol levels low. Eating five servings of fresh fruit a day is the new mantra for preventing cancer, and eating strawberries is certainly a tasty low-calorie way of meeting this target.


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