Wimbledon: Why does everyone eat strawberries and cream?

Some 190,000 portions are consumed during the tennis competition each year.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 24:  Spectators enjoy a bowl of strawberries and cream on day one of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 24, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Bowls of strawberries and cream have been eaten at Wimbledon for many years. (Getty Images)

Wimbledon 2023 has begun and while all British eyes will be on hopefuls Andy Murray, Cameron Norrie and Heather Watson, many spectators will no doubt be looking forward to tucking into a delicious portion of strawberries and cream.

The delicacy has become almost as synonymous with the SW19 championship as the tennis itself, with around 190,000 portions consumed each year, according to the official Wimbledon website.

And this year the iconic championship is planning to serve even bigger strawberries for the same price.

For the last 13 years, strawberries and cream have remained at £2.50 for visitors, and while the number of strawberries – 10 per punnet – has also not changed, experts have predicted the berries could be bigger than usual thanks to a slightly late harvest producing bigger and sweeter fruit.

But why do we associate Wimbledon with the classic British summertime dish?

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Strawberries are seen during Day One of The Championships Wimbledon 2022 (Getty Images)
Strawberries on Day One of The Championships Wimbledon last year. (Getty Images)

Strawberries and cream have been served up at the Wimbledon tennis championships since the very first tournament back in 1877, when there were just 200 spectators.

While there's no official explanation from Wimbledon about why the classic fruit was offered to the crowd, there are a couple of potential theories.

The first, quite simply, is that the 1877 championships was held during the British strawberry season, of which the peak occurs in June and July.

"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, the then head of PR for the All England Club, told CNN in 2015.

"They were part of afternoon tea, which had become a fashionable ritual, and that took root at Wimbledon."

1877:  The original Challenge Trophy trophy presented at Wimbledon.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The original Challenge Trophy trophy presented at Wimbledon in 1877. (Getty Images)

Perkins went on to say the strawberries form part of the air of old-fashioned Englishness that is associated with the iconic event.

"Many people see Wimbledon as being like tennis in an English garden," he adds. "The tennis is the main thing, of course, but it is a big part of the English summer and is a day out for people as well."

Some historians, however, have an alternative theory and believe the now classic combination became a winner because it was once consumed by royalty.

The origins of the classic combination are actually credited to King Henry VIII's Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, during the early 16th century.

According to the All Things Georgian blog when the King visited Wolsey's home at Hampton Court, not far from Wimbledon, the chancellor's cook is said to have served wild strawberries and cream as a dessert.

At the time dairy was considered to be something of a peasant food, but because it was consumed by the King, the combination of the fruit and the cream is thought to have grown in popularity and now remains the number one single food item served at the All England Club.

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Kate, Princess of Wales - Patron of the All England Lawn Tennis Club - helped prep strawberries at the prestigious event in 2021. (Getty Images)
Kate, Princess of Wales - Patron of the All England Lawn Tennis Club - helped prep strawberries at the prestigious event in 2021. (Getty Images)

Wimbledon's strawberries and cream by numbers

Around 28,000kg of strawberries are consumed during the tournament each year served with more than 7,000 litres of cream, with 191,930 portions of strawberries and cream consumed during the championships in 2019, according to the official Wimbledon website.

The price for a portion of a minimum of 10 strawberries and cream at Wimbledon has remained at a very reasonable sounding £2.50 per serving since 2010.

The strawberries at Wimbledon are always grade 1 English strawberries of the highest quality from Kent, from LEAF-registered farms (LEAF is a charity promoting Integrated Farm Management balancing organic with chemical practices).

To ensure the utmost freshness, the berries are picked at 4.00am, collected from the packing plant at 9.00am and are delivered to the club for inspection and hulling.

They are then enjoyed by guests on the same day as they were picked.

A box of strawberries destined for the Wimbledon tennis tournament, are pictured at Hugh Lowe Farms, near Maidstone, Kent on June 21, 2021. - Tennis eras come and go like Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf dominating Wimbledon and the baton soon to pass from Roger Federer and Serena Williams but one quintessential feature has remained unchanged -- the stawberries.  Hugh Lowe Farms, situated near Maidstone in the market garden county of England Kent, has been the sole source of the famed fruit so closely associated with the Grand Slam (Photo by BEN STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
Hugh Lowe Farms, situated near Maidstone in Kent, has been the sole source of the famed fruit so closely associated with the event. (Getty Images)

Of course, strawberries and cream aren't the only food and drink that has become synonymous with the famous event, Pimms has also become something of a drink of choice for spectators keen to quench their thirst.

In 2019 the tournament estimated that 276,291 glasses of Pimm's were served up to parched tennis fans, while there were also 18,061 serves of fish and chips, 6,147 serves of pasta for competitors, 4,242 serves of sushi for competitors and 64,703 ice cream portions.

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