Botany word of the week.

Aggregate fruit (as well as some bonus chatter about accessory and multiple fruits, pseudocarps, drupes, achenes, carpels, and…um…monkey bread?)

Occasionally (or possibly frequently, given the weird world we live in), things turn out to be different than advertised. Sort of like that purse I ordered off of the Internet. But I digress….

Case in point: raspberries and strawberries.  Are they actually berries?  You already know where I’m going with this!

What does it mean to be a berry?  Quite a few things, really, but one of them is that the fruit must develop from a flower possessing one ovary.  Strawberries and raspberries don’t fit the bill.  If you take a look at the fruit of a raspberry, you’ll notice that it is made up of a bunch of little nubs. You could pull each one apart, kind of like a loaf of monkey bread.  (Mmmm…how can you tell I haven’t eaten breakfast yet?).  Each one of these is called a drupe (drupelets), and they are produced from the multiple ovaries of a flower.  Each drupe contains a seed.  In the case of a strawberry, those little seed-like things on the outside are not actually seeds, although they do contain seeds. Those small bumps are called achenes.  Because these fruitlets were all joined together, they are called aggregrate fruits.  (Just to be confusing, not all multiple fruits – those with more than one ovary per flower – are aggregate.  Some don’t join together to form a single entity).

Raspberries

And, to add to the fun, strawberries are categorized as an accessory fruit (aka pseudocarp) in addition to an aggregate fruit. Some of that yummy fleshy stuff we eat is made up of tissue that originates near the carpel (modified leaves that surround the ovules) of the flower.

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way…I’m off to enjoy an aggregate fruit smoothie!  (Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?).  Do you grow raspberries and/or strawberries in your garden?  What ways do you use them in cooking and baking?  

Sources:
Geggel, Laura, “Why are Bananas Berries, but Strawberries Aren’t?”, LiveScience, January 12, 2017, https://www.livescience.com/57477-why-are-bananas-considered-berries.html.
UCMP Berkeley , “Anthophyta: More on Morphology,” accessed March 3, 2020, https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/anthophyta/anthophytamm.html.  (This is a really good resource if you need a refresher on how fruits are formed).

 

Recipes: Rhubarb-Strawberry-Honey Lemonade and Rhubarb-Strawberry Cobbler.

Rhubarb

 

This is a good year for rhubarb here in Calgary:  we’ve gotten plenty of moisture and the temperatures have been relatively cool so far.  I don’t grow rhubarb myself, but there is a plant at the community garden where I rent a plot.  Because there are 27 plotholders, one rhubarb plant doesn’t go very far, so out of fairness, a system of rationing has been implemented.   Late last week I picked my allowance, and mulled over how best to use it.  My go-to rhubarb recipe has always been a rhubarb cake from the Purity Cookbook (you can see a modified version of this recipe on my blog Blooms and Spoons, over at Grit.com), but this time I was looking for something a little different.  I had a refreshing drink in mind, but I seem to have misplaced my recipe for Rhubarb Fizz, and the ones I’ve found (so far) on the Internet aren’t the same. The organic lemons and strawberries I had in the fridge finally clinched it for me.  Here is what I made:

Rhubarb-Strawberry-Honey Lemonade

4 stalks rhubarb, washed and chopped into 1″ chunks

1/3 cup honey

4 cups water

1 1/2 cups strawberries, washed, hulled, and chopped  (I wish my alpine strawberries were ready to pick now – I will have to make this again once they are!)

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 3 lemons

Bring water, rhubarb, honey, water, and lemon zest to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add strawberries, and return to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer another 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, then strain liquid through a sieve into a glass pitcher.  Reserve fruit. *   Add lemon juice.  Serve chilled.  You can add a splash of carbonated water to this if you want it to be nice and fizzy!

*Rhubarb-Strawberry Cobbler

This is why you reserved the fruit from the Rhubarb-Strawberry-Honey Lemonade!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place rhubarb-strawberry fruit mixture in a medium saucepan.  Add 1/4 cup water and 3 tbsp. sugar.  Simmer on medium heat for ten minutes.  In the meantime, make the batter.

Mix together:

1 cup white flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

3 tbsp. sugar

3 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

Add in:

1/3 cup margarine or butter

Stir until mixture is crumbly.

Combine with

1 egg

1/2 cup milk.

Stir thoroughly.  The batter will be very sticky.

Place the hot fruit into a 9″ square glass baking dish and top with spoonfuls of batter.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Enjoy warm, with cream or ice cream!

(Recipe adapted from the Purity Cookbook:  The Complete Guide to Canadian Cooking).

Rhubarb strawberry cobbler

Do you like the taste of rhubarb?  What are your favourite rhubarb recipes?

 

 

 

Alpine strawberries.

Way back in the summer of 2006, when I was still working in a garden centre, a grower brought me a flat of samples.  I don’t recall what else was in the tray, but I know there was one alpine strawberry plant (Fragaria vesca ‘Alpine’) tucked in there with the rest.  It came home with me and I planted it in a completely forgettable place behind a lilac.  Over the years the lilac has grown and the little strawberry hideaway has gotten a bit tangled with quackgrass (my excuse is that I can’t/won’t reach back there to pull it – I mean, there could be spiders or beetles or something on the lilac and they might get in my hair)…

IMG_6038

…but, as strawberries are wont to do given time and space, my single plant has been quietly evolving into a little thicket.

I’m so pleased!  We’re looking at a “bumper” strawberry crop this year!    😉

Do you grow strawberries of any kind?  What are your favourites?