The Strawberry, And What Do You Do For An Encore?


Once upon a time, a long time ago (around 1714), a spy, posing as a merchant, was dispatched from France to Chile to investigate the defenses which the Spanish had installed there.  While there, he also had the opportunity to see some truly amazing plants, but he was most impressed by the strawberries.  Strawberries of one sort or another are native throughout most of the world, but most are just little bitty things.  They may taste good, but you’ve got to get quite a few of them together to make a decent snack.  These were mega-bruisers.  Five or six could fill a small plate.  The name of this spy was Amedee Frezier (which is a variation of the word for strawberry).

Anyway, being a top-notch spy, he managed to get his hands on six strawberry plants and make away with them back to France.  Sacrificing fresh water needed by both himself and his shipmates to ensure that the plants made it safely across the ocean, he finally arrived in France with his precious cargo, no doubt very proud of himself.

There was only one problem.  These strawberries never produced much fruit.  Still, the plants were pretty enough, so they were kept at various botanical gardens across Europe and propagated using the runners which they naturally produce.  But the scientific community never could figure out how to make them produce fruit on a regular basis.

Enter Antoine Duchesne, a great scientist of the 18th century.  Duchesne figured out that the problem that the Chilean strawberries were having was that they were female.  Sure, they had fruit when Frezier saw them, but when he brought them to Europe they were never placed near male strawberry plants to provide pollen.  So Frezier mated the Chilean strawberries with male strawberries native to Europe and Bang!  There were the big beautiful strawberries that Frezier had seen in Chile.  And in 1764 he presented a bowl of them to King Louis XV.  Duchesne was seventeen at the time.  I wonder, was the rest of his life a letdown?

2 thoughts on “The Strawberry, And What Do You Do For An Encore?”

  1. Hi Jeff,
    Funny you should post about this, as I am working on a project involving research on Amedee Frezier.
    Could you give me your references which indicate that he was a spy?

  2. Hi Gwen. The best source of information on anything to do with strawberries is the book : The Strawberry by George M. Darrow — that’s where I get most of my strawberry info.

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