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Some like strawberries
2003 /June

At one time Arnavutköy was a small Bosphorus village of picturesque wooden houses and waterfront mansions, mosques and churches, and a few shops. Vineyards, fields and orchards climbed up the hillside behind. Arnavutköy was renowned in Istanbul for its fragrant strawberries. These small, delicate pink fruits, known today as Ottoman strawberries, were first grown here in the 19th century by the Ipsilanti family. In May and June the strawberries were gathered in baskets and carried down to the village square at the watr'se edge, where they were loaded onto boats and taken to the city markets. It is related that some baskets of these strawberries were sent as a gift to Halil Paşa in Ereğli on the Black Sea coast, and were so highly praised by the paşa, that his carriage driver Mustafa Bey decided to try and grow them. The strawberries flourished in the soil and climate of Eregli, and seeing this a local farmer, Kahyaoglu Kadir, and his Greek partner started to grow the strawberries in the nearby village of Kestaneci.

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Some like strawberries
2003 /June

Soon strawberries were being grown widely throughout the area. Strawberries symbolise abundance and fertility, as a German custom illustrates. In Bavaria farmers used to tie a basket of strawberries between the horns of their cows as a gift to the fairies, who were supposed to be fond of strawberries, in the hope that their cows would give more milk. Strawberries belong to the Rosa family. They are a low-growing plant that produces white flowers. The fruit may be eaten fresh, made into preserves, sorbet, puddings, cakes, and even wine or liqueur. Today there are around 600 cultivated varieties in the world. In Turkey strawberries are mainly grown in the Black Sea and Marmara regions. The larger and redder European varieties are also cultivated, but the fragrant Ottoman strawberry of Eregli is preferred for preserves. Wild strawberries are also found in woodland. Other areas famous for their strawberries are Bursa and Tarsus, although production in the latter has declined in recent years.

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Some like strawberries
2003 /June
Strawberries are valuable source of vitamins B and C, calcium, iron, phosphorus and other minerals, and in folk medicine are recommended for numerous complaints. They rejuvenate and strengthen the body by stimulating the glands, and are also good for the nervous system. However, they have a tendency to cause allergic reactions. Strawberries thrive in a wide range of climates and soils around the world. They will grow at high altitudes, in semitropical regions, and even in deserts so long as they are watered. They fruit best in sandy, well-drained and moist soil, but dislike alkaline soil. The more leaves there are on the plant, the more fruit it will yield. Strawberry plants may be planted in winter, spring or summer and continue to give fruit for six years. While they usually fruit in May and June, some varieties give fruit for seven months.
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Some like strawberries
2003 /June
The mature fruit is gathered early in the morning, and if kept in a cool place remains fresh for up to eight days. However strawberries are sensitive to heat and bruising. Only buy those that are glossy, firm, and still bear their green sepals, and eat as soon as possible.

* Renan Yildirim is a journalist
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