The History of Wimbledon’s Signature Dessert: Strawberries and Cream

strawberries and cream wimbledon tennis classic championship

Mention Wimbledon Lawn tennis and one sweet dish immediately comes to mind: strawberries and cream. The two are inextricably linked, part of a tradition dating back centuries.

wimbledon tennis championship court
Courtesy of VisitBritain

The History of English Strawberries and Cream

It is presumed that the link between strawberries and cream began in 1509, when Cardinal Wolsey served them at a banquet during the reign of King Henry VIII. It became the dessert of choice whenever Wolsey hosted real tennis matches at Hampton Court Palace. The combination of tastes proved irresistible, and has continued across the centuries.

The Classic Wimbledon Dessert

June and July is the strawberry season in England. So, when the first Wimbledon tournament was held in 1877, offering strawberries and cream to visitors was the automatic choice.

The amount of strawberries and cream sold during the Wimbledon lawn tennis championships are staggering. For the past thirty years, all the strawberries have been provided by one farm, the Kent based Hugh Lowe. Lowe is a fifth generation family business, that is now run by Marion Regan. The farm supplies up to three tons of strawberries every day for the championships. “We supply Malling Centenary, bred just five miles down the road from us. It has an exceptional sweet flavor, juicy and luscious, a classic English strawberry.”

The strawberries are hand picked from the fields starting at 5:30am, with supplies being constantly collected, inspected and made ready for a daily collection by the Wimbledon caterers. On arrival late morning at Wimbledon, the strawberries are immediately placed in chilled cabinets and prepared ready for sale.

Each serving contains around 10 strawberries, served with Hinxden Farm Channel Islands pouring cream. In 2021, a vegan, plant based cream option was introduced.

According to the All England Lawn Tennis Club, approximately 190,000 servings of strawberries are sold throughout the championships. This equals around 2 million strawberries and 7,000 liters of cream.

The Food and Drink Menu at Wimbledon, Pimm’s O’Clock!

wimbeldon tennis strawberries cream classic dessert

Food is definitely important at Wimbledon. The All England Tennis club states “Wimbledon is not just a celebration of tennis, it is a celebration of great food and drink.”

All the food & drink provided at Wimbledon are designed to reflect the event’s history and heritage. Pimms is one of the most iconic beverages on offer. A gin based spirit with a fruity flavor, combined with herbal botanicals, caramelized orange and warm spices made to a secret recipe; it was created in 1840 by James Pimm at the Oyster Bar in London. It became extremely popular, especially within high society.

Nowadays, Pimms and the phrase Pimm’s O’clock have become British summertime icons.

Menus are designed to offer something special be it a British classic or a world dish at every venue for example Spiced Texan barbecue cauliflower bites, pizza, fish & chips as well as cold plates, poached salmon, Eton Mess (Chantilly cream, Wimbledon strawberries, crushed meringue) as well as a range of sandwiches, pots and salads developed by Allegra McEvedy, founder of the Leon chain. Visitors can click on a food map to identify exactly where all the ingredients on Wimbledon menus come from.

There are no reservations available at any of the restaurants. Everyone takes their chance on a table.

Picnics on the Lawn

Picnics on the lawn are always popular. This year, it has been possible to book a Wimbledon Picnic box to enjoy at home if you cannot get a seat at the matches and have to watch on TV. Whether at home or on site, there are lunch, afternoon tea, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free variations. These contain a starter, main course, cheese, dessert, strawberries and cream, wine and water.

Typical dishes include Chalk Stream Potted Trout, Rannoch Sliced Smoked Chicken, traditional pork pie, Butternut Squash tart with Moroccan spices, Lemon posset, Passion fruit, Yuzu and Matcha puddings.

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Angela Youngman is a UK based freelance journalist specialising in food & drink, travel, tourism and leisure. Her travels, together with her love of good, local food has resulted in lots of fascinating experiences throughout Europe. Whether learning to make gin and cider, or discovering the delights of specialist cheeses and idiosyncratic markets and producers; it is a constant adventure into a world of brilliant food and drink. Add to that the fun of finding out about the history and heritage of food and how it has affected lives across the centuries.