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Foraging for Wild Straberries, Fragaria vesca

fragraria vescaWild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca)

I might as well admit it - I adore wild strawberries! As far as I am concerned they are the ULTIMATE wild food. I love bilberries too, or raspberries, or blackberries, for that matter, but nothing on this earth beats wild strawberries. When their season comes I eagerly check all my favorite gathering grounds to make sure they are progressing nicely. I try to restrain myself, but inevitably I end up picking some prematurely, not half the delight as the fully ripened berries - so I leave them be and just keep coming back to see how they are progressing. Happily, wild strawberry is one of those plants whose season is quite prolonged. Depending on factors such as exposure to sunlight and altitude it is possible to harvest them over a period of a couple of months. Of course, competition from birds and other critters can be tough.

wild strawberriesIt is not just the taste I love about these delightful little plants - it is everything about them: The humble and innocent appearance of their dainty little flowers would never lead one to suspect the scrumptious surprise their cute little fairy berries will yield. It is often said that picking them is a tedious task - this may be true, but the effort is so richly rewarded. Unfortunately I rarely manage to gather enough to take away for later, to prepare any of the numerous goodies to which they would lend themselves, marmalade, or pastries or ice cream … Most of the ones I have ever picked went straight from the plant to the gullet without much further ado - I just can't help myself. I have convinced myself that they don't last very well and that even in the short period it would take to transport them home they would lose too much of their deliciousness, so best to just eat them on the spot. Thus I can't give any recipes that I have actually tried and tested myself, but have to cite other sources who evidently have a larger patch closer to home or are simply more controlled and thus have been able to gather more experience on the subject. My personal recommendation would always be eat them on the spot whenever you can and don't tell anybody.

But before giving you some recipes from other sources, I would just like to carry on singing the praises of wild strawberries for a bit longer and mention their medicinal properties and those of their leaves.

The dried leaves make a very good tonic breakfast tea. The fruit are cooling and refreshing and are very useful for feverish conditions. According to Linnaeus they are also useful for rheumatic gout. The leaves in particular are highly effective in washing out uric acid crystals. In the course of history all sort of claims have been made for strawberries and their leaves, from aphrodisiac to blood cleansing tonic - though these days the plant finds little use in medical herbalism. The sweet little berries are simply appreciated for their taste, though even in times gone by some eminent herbalists disliked the wonderful herb. Hildegard von Bingen had this to say:

'The herb on which wild strawberries grow is more warm than cold. This herb brings mucus to the person who eats it and is not beneficial as medicine. Indeed, the berries themselves make mucus in the person who eats them. They are not good for a healthy or sick person to eat because they grow near the earth and because they also grow in putrid air.'

I respectfully, though most profoundly disagree, Frau von Bingen… Mrs. Grieves was more kindly inclined, though apparently found it a bother to gather the little berries. She mentions an interesting cosmetic use of strawberries: to remove stains from teeth.

'If the juice is allowed to stay on for about five minutes and the teeth are then cleansed with warm water to which a pinch of bicarbonate of soda has been added.'

Incidentally, wild strawberries are said to be effective in removing plaque and tartar from teeth.

Mrs. Grieves also gives an old, somewhat elaborate recipe, which someone here might like to try:

'Gather strawberry leaves on Lamas Eve (1 Aug) press them in the distillery until the aromatick perfume therof becomes sensible. Take a fat turkey and pluck him, and baste him, then enfold him carefully in the strawberry leaves. Then boil him in water from the well, and add rosemary, velvet flower (?), lavender, thistles, stinging nettles, and other sweet smelling herbs. Add also a pinte of canary wine, and half a pound of butter and one of ginger passed through the sieve. Sieve with plums and stewed raisons and a little salt. Cover him with a silver dish cover.'

CAUTION: People prone to allergies should avoid strawberries.

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Please note that although all the references to edible and medicinal herbs are tried and tested, their efficacy cannot be guaranteed and has not been approved by the FDA. Furthermore, everybody responds differently to various plants, and adverse reactions cannot be ruled out. Historical information regarding poisonous plants is included for educational purposes only and should not be tried out at home. Everybody uses herbs at their own risk and thus must make themselves fully aware of their potential power. Any information given here is educational and should not replace a visit to the doctor should this be necessary. Neither Sacred Earth nor Kat Morgenstern accepts responsibility for anybody's home experimentation. Links to external sites are included as pointers to further resources - we do not endorse them or are in any way responsible for their content, nor do we thus verify that their content is accurate.