Aug 15, 2016

Dr. William Butler, writing in the 16th century about the strawberry, observed: "Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did." 

His position is tenable, but I wonder whether it represents careful analysis or mere prejudice. Did he consider the akala, a sweet berry from Hawaii, or the wild whortleberry of England, a tart relative of the blueberry? Did he take into account the Scandinavian cloud berry or the Japanese wine berry? Did he ponder the cranberry or it's cousin, the cowberry? Did he take note of the gooseberry, the indispensable ingredient in that classic English dessert, gooseberry fool.

Obviously, he did not study the loganberry or the boysenberry, because the former was not discovered by Judge J. H. Logan of California until around the turn of the century. And the latter, a cross between a loganberry, a raspberry, and a blackberry, was not invented by Rudolph Boysen until 1923.

And what about blackberries and raspberries -- and for that matter elderberries and mulberries? Did he factor those into his deliberations?

Clearly, Butler's assertion about the strawberry may have been a bit, well, rash. Not that the strawberry isn't a strong candidate for the title of best berry. Surely the residents of Wepion, the Belgian town which claims to be the world capital of strawberries and which houses a strawberry museum, would give it their vote.

And who would argue that strawberries aren't wonderful? The ancient Romans even thought they could cure gastritis and other illnesses. I don't know if that's true, but on the other hand I won't dispute the notion that a large dish of strawberries, perhaps covered with heavy cream, can be therapeutic. 

But with all due respect to the good Dr. Butler, I think he may have overstated the case for strawberries, though perhaps not by much. The truth is, I wouldn't want to spend a summer without strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, or any of those wonderful summer berries -- I'm grateful for all of them.