The Strawberry
Book Review

The Strawberry book review given here is for the text by George M. Darrow.

The Strawberry: History, Breeding and Physiology by George M. Darrow is considered a classic by many strawberry enthusiasts around the world, both for it's breadth of topics, as well as the detail of their coverage.  Copyrighted in 1966 by the New England Institute for Medical Research, it was "...the first comprehensive study of the strawberry since the 1917 publication of S. W. Fletcher's The Strawberry in North America", as noted inside the dust cover on the front jacket flap.  (For more about Fletcher's book, please see the * near the bottom of the page.)

Dr. Darrow was widely regarded as the world's greatest expert on strawberries, and worked as a researcher for the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture for 46 years (1911-1957).  When this book was first published it was the best general reference work available for strawberries.  It is obviously a bit dated now, but it still has quite a lot to recommend it here, in this The Strawberry book review.

There are many truly gorgeous, full-color images of strawberries--and strawberry artworks--that are available in few (if any) other places.  Additionally, there are an immense amount of drawings, maps, tables, etc., throughout the work that provide the reader with clear illustration of many topics and concepts.<

The history of the strawberry that is given in Chapters 3-6 by Miss Vivian Lee is written in an eminently readable and enjoyable style.  Likewise, Chapters 19-20 offer the reader one of the most understandable introductions anywhere to strawberry (and plant, generally) morphology, physiology, and related concerns.

The Strawberry book review here notes that there are other areas of the book which are likely to be of less general interest, though they may be highly valued by some select groups, particularly strawberry breeders.  As Dr. Darrow himself stated in the Preface, this book " designed to be what I would like to have available for my use, if I were starting a breeding program now" (italics added).

Perhaps the best thing about this book to mention in this The Strawberry book review is that this text can be read on the Internet for free!  It can be found here (clicking this link will open it in a new window).

Since this work had contributors besides Darrow, any The Strawberry book review must evaluate the writing of several individuals.  Miss D. Vivian Lee (former Science Reporter for Life magazine) wrote the included history of the strawberry, spread across Chapters 3-6.

The Honorable Henry A. Wallace wrote the first chapter of the book, the Introduction.  Wallace served as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture during the period 1933-1940, where he oversaw the changes in farming practices that ended the so-called "Dust Bowl" era of the 1930's.  He was also the 33rd Vice President of the United States, under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, during most of World War II (Jan. 20th, 1941-Jan. 20th, 1945).  After the war, he served briefly as the U.S. Secretary of Commerce (1945-1946).  It is a photograph of the Hon. Wallace (not of Dr. Darrow, as might be supposed) which covers the entire area of the back of the book's dust jacket.

The Hon. Wallace's sister, Mrs. Mary Wallace Bruggman, authored Chapter 2 of the text, "The Strawberry in Religious Paintings of the 1400's".

Dr. Royce S. Bringhurst wrote the "California" section of Chapter 15 (as well as helping Dr. Darrow somewhat with Chapter 18).  Dr. Bringhurst's Chapter 15 contribution is especially noteworthy in that it plays into a bit of an issue between two other important strawberry texts, A History of the Strawberry from Ancient Gardens to Modern Markets, and Quest for the Perfect Strawberry. While Dr. Bringhurst is almost unmentioned in the former text (he is mentioned in a footnote about the Chapter 15 contribution), he (and Victor Voth) figure prominently in the latter text.

Other contributors to the volume are noted in it's List of Contributors section.

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The following is a short overview of some of the topics covered in the text:

Foreword, List of Contributors, List of Credits for Illustrations, Preface, and Contents.

Chapter  1: A little information about Dr. Darrow, as well as some of the Hon. Wallace's personal thoughts and reflections on the past, present and future of strawberries.

Chapter  2: The symbolism of the strawberry in Renaissance art.

Chapter  3: The European history of the strawberry, from ancient times until the importation into Europe of Chilean strawberry plants (F. Chiloensis) in the early 1700's.

Chapter  4: The European history of the strawberry from the time that Amédée François Frézier brought F. Chiloensis to Europe until the time of Antoine Nicolas Duchesne's L'Histoire Naturelle des Fraisiers.

Chapter  5: A biography of Antoine Nicolas Duchesne, with special emphasis on his research regarding strawberries.

Chapter  6: Strawberry breeding in Europe from Duchesne's L'Histoire Naturelle des Fraisiers until about 1900, with special emphasis on the breeding work conducted by Knight, Keens, the Laxton family, and others in England.

Chapter  7: Genetic studies of strawberries, especially genetic experimentation, and classification of various strawberry species by the number of chromosomes of the different species ("ploidy" classification).

Chapter  8: The differences in distribution and characteristics of the various strawberry species.

Chapter  9: How U.S. strawberry production changed from wild-picked strawberries in the early and mid-1800's to rather large scale cultivation of near-modern garden varieties by the late 1800's.

Chapter 10: How strawberry varieties of the early to mid-1900's became better specialized to suit the regions in North America in which they were cultivated.

Chapter 11: A brief history of everbearing strawberry varieties.

Chapter 12: Biographical information of the breeders of some of the most important strawberry varieties of the 1800's and early 1900's.

Chapter 13: Biographical information of some of the best known strawberry breeders of the mid-1900's.

Chapter 14: The objectives of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's strawberry breeding program up to the mid-1900's, as well as some of the techniques that were employed and a short review of the program's results.

Chapter 15: A summary of the strawberry research conducted up to the mid-1900's by government-sponsored experiment stations in the United States and Canada.

Chapter 16: A summary of strawberry breeding and production in England and Scotland from the early 1800's to the mid-1900's.

Chapter 17: A summary of strawberry breeding and production in various continental European countries from the early 1800's to the mid-1900's.

Chapter 18: Highlights of strawberry breeding and production in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Mexico up until the mid-1960's.

Chapter 19: The structures of strawberry plants and their fruits, including information on the development and functions of those structures.

Chapter 20: A brief look at ways in which strawberry plants and fruit are influenced by daylight length and intensity, and by temperature.

Chapter 21: Descriptions and photographs of various diseases that afflict strawberry plants.

Chapter 22: Words of encouragement to those interested in becoming strawberry breeders, as well as suggestions for future research (as of the mid-1960's).

Chapter 23: Some considerations regarding the rating of strawberry varieties, given for the purpose of comparing them with each other.  Also includes a large listing of strawberry varieties, grouping them together based on which desirable traits that they share.

Seven Appendices, and an Index.

*Dr. Fletcher's The Strawberry in North America, as well as the companion volume written by Fletcher, Strawberry-Growing, are both also available online for free!  Click here for the The Strawberry in North America, or here for Strawberry-Growing (clicking on either of the two previous links will open the selected book in a new window).

These texts, as well as many others, are made available by the Google Books program.  Several other old strawberry texts can be found by searching Google Books for the search term "strawberry".  Please keep in mind, however, that StrawberriesForStrawberryLovers.Com is not able to vouch for the family friendliness of books that are not reviewed by this site.

(Note: this strawberry book review is given simply to introduce strawberry lovers to great writing about strawberries.  Please do the right thing and respect all copyrights.  Thank you!)

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