Strawberries and Cream, British Customs
If there is one fruit in Britain that symbolises summer more than any other then it has to be the strawberry. Luscious and exotic, this plump red fruit is now available all year round in your supermarkets thanks to imports from around the world. But, if you want the real deal it has to be British strawberries from the British growing season; which is the summertime.
Strawberries are versatile and can be enjoyed on their own or in a large variety of combinations of foods. But one strawberry dish that is iconic of the British summer above all others is strawberries and cream.
This delicious snack is enjoyed all over Britain, but there is one place which has to be considered to be the place to enjoy strawberries and cream and that is during the international tennis tournament held annually Wimbledon. Strawberries and cream are considered to be an integral part of the Wimbledon experience and your visit to the tournament would simply not be complete without enjoying a bowl of criminally overpriced strawberries and cream. There is a popular legend that King George V introduced strawberries and cream to the crowds at court. Historians argue that the tradition of strawberries and cream started in 1877 at the time of the first Wimbledon tournament, thus meaning that the tradition is as old as the tournament itself.
It is estimated that some 27000 kgs of fruit and 7000 litres of cream are consumed by the crowds during the tournament. Such is the popularity of this tradition, however, that it is not just those visiting Wimbledon who increase their consumption of strawberries and cream at this time of year. The supermarkets will all be seen to stock extra strawberries and cream during the tournament as many armchair fans join the more privileged spectators in the tradition of eating strawberries and cream whilst watching the tennis at Wimbledon.
However, other historians insist that the first person attributed with combining these two into the now legendary combination was actually Cardinal Wolsey, who predates Wimbledon by several hundred years. Cardinal Wolsey would have used the wild English strawberries and not the plump juicy fruit we know today.
The official strawberry variety sold at Wimbledon is the Elsanta variety which is grown not far away in Kent. The commonly consumed strawberries of today are based on a French experiment which combined the smaller English variety with a plump white strawberry variety found in Chile. In 1817 and 1821, however, English grower Michael Keens set the tone for the domination of the English strawberry grower by introducing Keens Imperial and Keens Seedling. These caused the beginning of what is known as ‘strawberry fever’ which has gripped the nation ever since!