Emerald green grass and pristine white outfits are the hallmark of Wimbledon. But the experience would be incomplete without a dash of garish red. Like the mint julep at Churchill Downs or the pimento cheese sandwich at the Masters, Wimbledon is as much about fresh strawberries and sweet, clotted cream as it is about tennis.
Tennis' most prestigious major is approaching the final rounds at the All England Club in southwest London, and while the groundskeepers were meticulously watering, trimming and feeding the lawns in preparation for play, farmers in southern Kent were just as meticulously watering, feeding and preparing to harvest their ruby red jewels.
How strawberries and cream came to be such an integral part of Wimbledon remains a bit of a mystery. There is no historical connection between the fruit and tennis. But during the fortnight of the tournament, nearly 150,000 servings of strawberries will be consumed.
"It was probably two things -- strawberries were in season at the time the tournament was played, and in Victorian England they had become a fashionable thing to eat," Johnny Perkins, head of PR for the All England Club, told CNN in 2015.
And so strawberries became entwined with Wimbledon. According to the Wimbledon website, 140,000 servings of strawberries and 10,000 liters of cream were served at the 2015 tournament. The strawberries, which have sold for £2.50 ($3.59) since 2010, come in a small box called a “punnet” containing a minimum of 10 berries. A little more than 8,600 punnets were served per day in 2012. The berries are often paired with a glass of Pimm's Cup or champagne.
Strawberries are the No. 1 single food item served at the All England Club, though fans did partake in plenty of other edible goodies:
-- 110,000 sandwiches and baguettes
-- 86,000 servings of ice cream
-- 30,000 stone-baked pizzas
-- 25,000 scones
-- 16,000 servings of fish and chips
-- 10,000 servings of frozen yogurt
Of all the items on that list, only scones and fish-and-chips feel decidedly English. But strawberries do have a bit of history among the English elite. As a perishable food, strawberries were only available for a limited interval in Victorian England, and their availability signaled the start of summer (such as it is in England). Strawberries evolved into a luxury, generally only for the wealthy, and began to be included as part of afternoon tea in the early summer. The timing of the harvest and availability coincided with Wimbledon.
According to the Independent, strawberries and cream were first served together in 1509, when Cardinal Thomas Wosley paired them at a banquet during Henry VIII's reign. The combination stuck and nearly 400 years later was among the offerings at the first Wimbledon tournament in 1877.
With the evolution of technology, strawberries are now available at Wimbledon year round and the ones fans will eat during the tournament are harvested in the darkness on the same day they will be delivered to the All England Club. All Wimbledon strawberries are grown in Kent County, which is adjacent to the city of London, and about an hour southwest of Wimbledon.
While fans can purchase strawberries and cream at most any dining outlet on the Wimbledon grounds, one of the more traditional ways to experience the specialty is with a pre-ordered afternoon picnic, which includes two sandwiches, fruit and plain scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, Kentish strawberries and cream, a selection of afternoon tea pastries, two cups of tea and two bottles of water. The picnic is available via online order for £39.50 ($56.72) and may be eaten anywhere on the grounds, including the many terraces, grassy areas and tables set throughout the venue.