The fascination with strawberries has a long history, dating back as far as 2200 years ago. The Roman poets Virgil and Ovid mentioned the strawberry in the first century A.D. The name ‘strawberry’ is supposedly derived from a farmer’s practice of mulching the plant with straw to retain moisture, while dissuading the growth of pests and keeping the berries neat and fresh for picking. Technically, the strawberry is an aggregate accessory fruit, meaning that the fleshy part is derived not from the plant’s ovaries but from the receptacle that holds the ovaries. Each apparent “seed” (achene) on the outside of the fruit is actually one of the ovaries of the flower, with a seed inside it.
Even though wild strawberries were consumed by people around the world since ancient times, cultivation of strawberries did not start until much later. It was the French who introduced strawberry cultivation in Europe around the 1300s when they began transplanting the wild forest strawberry (Fragaria vesca) to the garden. Charles V, France’s king from 1364 to 1380, had 1.200 strawberry plants in his royal garden.
The Virginia strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) of North America was later introduced in Europe (in the 1600s) and the Chilean strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) was introduced from Chile to France in 1714 by Amedee-Francois Frezier. A cross between these two new strawberries Fragaria virginiana and Fragaria chiloensis in France gave rise to the hybrid strawberry Fragaria anannasa, the modern strawberry. Since then, hybridization has been employed to select cultivars of Fragaria ananassa for commercial purposes. These varieties were cultivated more for their consumer-appealing color and flavor as well as agricultural yield than for their nutritional benefits. Cultivars of Fragaria anannasa eventually replaced cultivars of the wild woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca), which was the first strawberry species cultivated in the early 17th century, in commercial production.
Due to the ever increasing consumer demand for healthier foods with emphasis on sustainability, nature-friendliness, and traceability, the innovative food extracts producer Iprona AG embarked on a journey to recreate the wild strawberry which was known for its great health benefits.
The result is the new dark, almost black strawberry, called Nerina (Fragaria nerina); a strawberry variety derived from the wild strawberry and cultivated to maximize its polyphenol content. The name Nerina comes from the Italian word for black “Nero” and the diminutive “ina”. The darker the strawberry, the more polyphenols, especially anthocyanins it contains. With 18 times more anthocyanin polyphenols as the normal commercial strawberry, Nerina is indeed a “super strawberry”.