May is National Strawberry Month a time to celebrate the first sweet fruits of spring! On Tuesday, May 18, join us as we celebrate the season with a delicious luncheon program all about "Scrumptious Strawberries!"

We'll gather for a strawberry potluck lunch at noon at the Finney County Extension Office, 501 S. Ninth St., on the fairgrounds in Garden City. Bring your favorite strawberry dish made with fresh or frozen strawberries along with the recipe to share for a scrumptious strawberry lunch.

This noon-hour program will feature facts and tips for growing, eating and preserving strawberries presented by Dean "Whitey" Whitehill, Finney County ag agent, and myself, along with Belinda Oldham, Wichita County agent. Learn about the nutritional benefits of eating strawberries, get advice for successful strawberry gardening and watch a video discussion on making delicious sweet spreads.

Everyone will receive a copy of the strawberry recipes, garden tips and preservation guidelines.

There is no charge for this luncheon program on "Scrumptious Strawberries." Reserve your spot by Friday by calling the Finney County Extension Office at 272-3670.

A slice of strawberry history

Strawberries have a history that goes back more than 2,000 years. They are native to both the northern and southern hemispheres. Strawberries grew wild in Italy as early as 234 B.C., where the first mention of strawberries occurred in the writings of Cato, a Roman senator.

European explorers discovered tiny, sweet, wild strawberries in North America in 1588 when they landed on the shores of the state of Virginia. Early settlers in Massachusetts enjoyed eating strawberries grown by local American Indians who cultivated them as early as 1643.

What's in a name?

The word strawberry is peculiar to the English language. The name has a variety of possible origins. Some believe that the name came from the practice of placing straw around the growing plants for protection. In London, children threaded the berries on pieces of straw and sold them in the marketplace as "Straws of Berries." In French, Italian and Spanish the fruit is referred to as a "Fraise" or fragrant berry. The Narragansett Indians of North America named the fruit for its shape "wuttahimneash" or "heart berry."

Reasons to eat strawberries

One cup (about eight large berries) provides:

* More than 140 percent of the recommended Daily Value for Vitamin C.

* Three grams of fiber.

* As much potassium as half of a large banana.

* All for about 50 calories!

If you're ready to celebrate strawberries in National Strawberry Month, join me at noon, May 18 at the Extension Office for "Scrumptious Strawberries." Call 272-3670 by Friday to reserve your spot!

For more information on food safety issues, see my Living Well blog at