The Fruit Queen Elizabeth Loved To Pick Herself

Hidden amongst 50,000 acres of pine, trout streams, and mountains in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, sits Balmoral Castle. Purchased by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1852, the star royals of the 19th century found the original castle too cramped and expanded the house and the grounds over the course of many years (via Town & Country). Generations later, for Queen Victoria's great-great granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II — who died at Balmoral on Sept. 8, 2022 at the age of 96 — the castle remains one of the British Royal Family's most precious holdings (per Vanity Fair). The Queen's abiding love of the estate has been well documented as it served as a place of peace and respite from the duty-filled lives of the Royals.

Nestled in the mountains of northeastern Scotland, Balmoral has been hailed by visitors as exceptionally beautiful. According to British Heritage, the castle is surrounded by a Caledonian pine forest and is home to farmland, deer, and numerous other species of Scottish wildlife. It is this terrain that also grew the Queen's favorite fruit, one of which she loved to pick herself: Wild strawberries.

A taste for wild fruits

As attested by former Royal Chef Darren McGrady, who cooked for the Queen for 11 years, "The Queen would relax by going strawberry picking and come back with a basket of berries for me to prepare in the kitchen." There he would make meals, jams, and desserts for the Queen, oftentimes under her direct supervision. According to Chef McGrady, one of her favorite treats was to have the strawberries she picked served with chocolate mousse or chocolate ice cream.

MyLondon reports that the strawberries found in the woods surrounding Balmoral are far smaller than those found at grocery stores. Their minuscule size makes their flavor very strong, as it is concentrated within these tiny pips. Though being her favorite, strawberries were by no means the only berries that the late Queen Elizabeth II would bring back to the kitchen at Balmoral. Along with her sister, the late Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth II would pick blueberries, raspberries, and fraises du bois. Chef McGrady and other castle cooks would transform them into jams and desserts. McGrady has a particular fondness for fraises du bois jam; a fondness that was shared by her late Majesty, who used to slather it on scones.