As Brits gear up to eat an anticipated 7,500 tonnes of strawberries during the Wimbledon fortnight, scientists reveal that we are in for a very cheerful two weeks as strawberries are named as the fruit that makes us feel the happiest.
The research, conducted by The University of London's Centre for the Study of the Senses1, found that for over three quarters of people (77 per cent) the aroma of a fresh strawberry triggers memories of summertime, while two thirds (64 per cent) felt it prompted thoughts of sunshine.
The team of scientists, who undertook the study to investigate the link between emotions, taste and smell, found that the appeal of the fruit was so strong that four out of five people (86 per cent) felt relaxed just by thinking about eating the quintessentially British fruit.
The experts found that the distinctive smell of a fresh strawberry is most likely to recall summer memories of garden parties, street markets, picnics, wedding receptions and breakfast in bed.
Other fruits were less likely to improve mood, with apples and bananas sparking visions of munching breakfast on the go or cramming lunch at the office desk.
The scientists also conducted 74 trials2 in the Centre's sensory lab to explore relationships between sounds and flavour – revealing that different soundscapes can enhance taste.
The sounds of a picnic and lawn mower cutting grass made strawberries taste fruitier than when people listened to office and commuting noises.
Surprisingly, the research also discovered that more Brits (25 per cent) associate strawberries with the smell of freshly cut grass rather than the popular food combination strawberries and cream (16 per cent) – a combination that will be perfect as thousands descend courtside and on to Henman Hill for the world famous tennis tournament this week.
Sensory expert from the University of London, Professor Barry Smith, said:
"More than any other sense, smell can evoke powerful, emotional memories.
"Strawberries have been shown to trigger nostalgic summer memories, because people usually see them as a seasonal treat.
"Despite the fact that strawberries and cream is one of the most popular food combinations, the majority of people associate British strawberries with the waft of freshly mown grass so chefs are already creating recipes to conjure these aromas."
Following this sensorial discovery, top chefs are busy creating dishes that appeal to all the senses and heighten the eating experience. James 'Jocky' Petrie, who has risen to fame alongside Heston Blumenthal, has been commissioned by industry body British Summer Fruits to create exciting recipes to stimulate the senses this summer.
Petrie's crazy concoctions include a strawberry and chilli nectar that evokes the heat of a summer's day and a strawberry sandwich made with white chocolate sponge, olive oil ganache, mint leaves, coriander seeds and a layer of 'grass' – made with white chocolate and wheatgrass.
Chef James 'Jocky' Petrie, Head of Development at The Ledbury, said:
"No flavour shouts summer to me more than that of a strawberry. It's an extraordinarily diverse berry that adds real depth of flavour to any sweet or savoury dish, which complements bitter and acid ingredients.
"Barry Smith's exciting work at the lab shows that strawberries trigger happy memories of years gone by and the sounds of summer make them taste even better."
Part of an emerging trend, retailers are also increasingly using multi-sensory design – dubbed Sensory Architecture – to enhance customer's experiences and environments.
Research by Condiment Junkie3 has shown controlling colour, texture, sound, smell, shape and form can have a profound effect on enjoyment and how memorable an experience is. It can even enhance taste perception by over 20 per cent.