Sweet On Strawberries

Hampton Roads' longstanding love affair with the red fruit blooms

Virginia Beach and Coastal Virginia has a big part in the history of the strawberry

Just a little more than 400 years ago, settlers came ashore at present-day Cape Henry at the north end of Virginia Beach, beginning a permanent English colony of the New World. On April 26, 1607, they began to explore the land, finding many wonderful things to eat, including strawberries.

In writings from historian George Percy, who was with Smith during his travels, he notes exploring the area around the Lynnhaven River: “Going a little further we came into a plat of ground full of fine and beautifull Strawberries, foure times bigger and better than ours in England.”

Berries grew wild in the region; the area in Hampton known today as Strawberry Banks was noted in 1619 by John Smith for the abundance of the fruit there.

Later, strawberries would be cultivated and shipped to England where their flavor was prized. The Virginia strawberry, or Fragaria virginiana, was one of two species of the fruit that were hybridized to create the domestic garden strawberry.

Today, Chandler and Sweet Charlie are among the most popular varieties grown in thearea. The berries are planted typically in late autumn, with harvest coming in late spring.

A list of statewide places to pick strawberries can be found at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website.