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Strawberry Fields

At Countryside Citrus, The Banack Family Revives The Tradition Of The U-Pick Strawberry Farm in Vero Beach

Squinting into the sunlight, a little girl cocks her head to one side, pigtails swinging, as red juice drips from her chin onto her white dress. In her outstretched hands are two plump, red strawberries — the spoils of her forage along the raised beds of vines spreading out behind her.

This month, as we delve into the wonderful world of strawberries, we take a look at the history and folklore surrounding this heart-shaped fruit and visit a family farm that continues to delight families with an annual strawberry patch. We also bring you tantalizing recipes for the whole family to enjoy as you celebrate February’s day of love and romance.

Dating back to Roman times, strawberries were thought to represent Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and thus became associated with passion and romance. Because it is the only fruit to bear seeds on the outside, newlyweds in France were commonly fed strawberry soup as a symbol of fertility, and legend has it that when a couple bites into the same berry, they are destined to fall in love.

To begin with, the strawberry is, strictly speaking, not a berry at all, but a member of the rose family. Some believe the name comes from the Old English word “strew,” as the plant’s runners look as if they have been strewn on the ground. Others say that farmers used to carry the berries to market on pallets of straw to prevent the soft flesh from bruising. And while Europeans had been cultivating the vines since the early 1300s, they were first chanced upon in America by explorers arriving in Virginia in 1588.