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Walter J. Pilsak via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

7 Sweet Facts About Strawberries

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Walter J. Pilsak via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Dazzle your friends with these seven juicy tidbits about the fruit.

1. STRAWBERRIES AREN'T BERRIES.

Technically speaking, strawberries are accessory fruits. By “accessory fruits” we don’t mean they make great earrings (although they might); we mean that they’re part of a class of fruit that includes apples, common figs, and pineapples.

2. NOBODY KNOWS FOR SURE HOW THEY GOT THEIR NAME.

There are several folk theories, including that the fruit got its name from its growth patterns over the ground like straw spread in a stable, but modern etymologists are not buying it.

3. THERE ARE SOME PRETTY WEIRD VARIETIES.

Emmbean via Wikipedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

The garden strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa) dominates our produce aisles and farmers markets, but it’s far from the only strawberry out there. The pineberry, shown above, looks like a sick strawberry but tastes like pineapple. Then there’s the Himalayan strawberry, Fragaria x daltonia, which looks like a sneaker from the '90s and is apparently not worth eating (it has been described as "virtually flavourless").

4. SHORTCAKE LOVERS SHOULD HEAD TO OREGON.

Every year, the Lebanon Strawberry Festival in early June is home to the world’s largest shortcake. The cake, which is made by a bakery in a local grocery story, requires 992 cups of flour, 514 cups of sugar, and 18 cups of vanilla, and can feed more than 15,000 people.

5. THEY MAKE EXPERIMENTS MUCH EASIER.

Tierra Smiley Evans/UC Davis

Everyone knows it’s hard to get saliva from a wild monkey. It’s their saliva, and they intend to keep it … unless there’s jam to be had. Clever primate researchers figured out that they could smear strawberry jam on a rope, then casually leave it lying around in the monkeys’ territory. The monkey comes along, chews on the rope, then leaves, providing scientists with a lovely—if gooey—spit sample.

6. THEY’VE GOT MORE VITAMIN C THAN ORANGES.

A large orange provides about 86 calories and 98 milligrams of Vitamin C, or 163 percent of your daily recommended intake. A serving of strawberries (about 10 strawberries) is 60 calories and offers almost 177 percent of your Vitamin C for the day.

7. STRAWBERRY CONSUMPTION IS ON THE RISE.

Hieronymous Bosch via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

From 2000 to 2012, American strawberry consumption rose by 60 percent. Agricultural experts credit improved growing techniques, which make the fruit taste better, and increased availability as we import more and more produce from Central and South America.

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Big Questions
Why Can't Dogs Eat Chocolate?
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Even if you don’t have a dog, you probably know that they can’t eat chocolate; it’s one of the most well-known toxic substances for canines (and felines, for that matter). But just what is it about chocolate that is so toxic to dogs? Why can't dogs eat chocolate when we eat it all the time without incident?

It comes down to theobromine, a chemical in chocolate that humans can metabolize easily, but dogs cannot. “They just can’t break it down as fast as humans and so therefore, when they consume it, it can cause illness,” Mike Topper, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, tells Mental Floss.

The toxic effects of this slow metabolization can range from a mild upset stomach to seizures, heart failure, and even death. If your dog does eat chocolate, they may get thirsty, have diarrhea, and become hyperactive and shaky. If things get really bad, that hyperactivity could turn into seizures, and they could develop an arrhythmia and have a heart attack.

While cats are even more sensitive to theobromine, they’re less likely to eat chocolate in the first place. They’re much more picky eaters, and some research has found that they can’t taste sweetness. Dogs, on the other hand, are much more likely to sit at your feet with those big, mournful eyes begging for a taste of whatever you're eating, including chocolate. (They've also been known to just swipe it off the counter when you’re not looking.)

If your dog gets a hold of your favorite candy bar, it’s best to get them to the vet within two hours. The theobromine is metabolized slowly, “therefore, if we can get it out of the stomach there will be less there to metabolize,” Topper says. Your vet might be able to induce vomiting and give your dog activated charcoal to block the absorption of the theobromine. Intravenous fluids can also help flush it out of your dog’s system before it becomes lethal.

The toxicity varies based on what kind of chocolate it is (milk chocolate has a lower dose of theobromine than dark chocolate, and baking chocolate has an especially concentrated dose), the size of your dog, and whether or not the dog has preexisting health problems, like kidney or heart issues. While any dog is going to get sick, a small, old, or unhealthy dog won't be able to handle the toxic effects as well as a large, young, healthy dog could. “A Great Dane who eats two Hershey’s kisses may not have the same [reaction] that a miniature Chihuahua that eats four Hershey’s kisses has,” Topper explains. The former might only get diarrhea, while the latter probably needs veterinary attention.

Even if you have a big dog, you shouldn’t just play it by ear, though. PetMD has a handy calculator to see just what risk levels your dog faces if he or she eats chocolate, based on the dog’s size and the amount eaten. But if your dog has already ingested chocolate, petMD shouldn’t be your go-to source. Call your vet's office, where they are already familiar with your dog’s size, age, and condition. They can give you the best advice on how toxic the dose might be and how urgent the situation is.

So if your dog eats chocolate, you’re better off paying a few hundred dollars at the vet to make your dog puke than waiting until it’s too late.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
What is Duck Sauce?
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A plate of Chinese takeout with egg rolls and duck sauce
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We know that our favorite Chinese takeout is not really authentically Chinese, but more of an Americanized series of menu options very loosely derived from overseas inspiration. (Chinese citizens probably wouldn’t recognize chop suey or orange-glazed chicken, and fortune cookies are of Japanese origin.) It would also be unusual for "real" Chinese meals to be accompanied by a generous amount of sauce packets.

Here in the U.S., these condiments are a staple of Chinese takeout. But one in particular—“duck sauce”—doesn’t really offer a lot of information about itself. What exactly is it that we’re pouring over our egg rolls?

Smithsonian.com conducted a sauce-related investigation and made an interesting discovery, particularly if you’re not prone to sampling Chinese takeout when traveling cross-country. On the East Coast, duck sauce is similar to sweet-and-sour sauce, only fruitier; in New England, it’s brown, chunky, and served on tables; and on the West Coast, it’s almost unheard of.

While the name can describe different sauces, associating it with duck probably stems from the fact that the popular Chinese dish Peking duck is typically served with a soybean-based sauce. When dishes began to be imported to the States, the Americanization of the food involved creating a sweeter alternative using apricots that was dubbed duck sauce. (In New England, using applesauce and molasses was more common.)

But why isn’t it easily found on the West Coast? Many sauce companies are based in New York and were in operation after Chinese food had already gained a foothold in California. Attempts to expand didn’t go well, and so Chinese food aficionados will experience slightly different tastes depending on their geography. But regardless of where they are, or whether they're using the condiment as a dipping sauce for their egg rolls or a dressing for their duck, diners can rest assured that no ducks were harmed in the making of their duck sauce.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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