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Wild Strawberries have many varieties that fit their environment, but their general botannical name is always Fragaria. This species is virginiana

Mohawk name: Noon tak tek hah kwa, meaning "growing where the ground is burned". Many kinds grow in meadows and flourish after a brush burnoff.

Anishinaabemowin name: Odeiminidjibik, meaning "root of the heart berry-seeds"; gives its name to the month of June, Odeiminigiizis, strawberry-gathering moon.

In early spring, as soon at it's safe from frost, the leaves unfurl, and the plant flowers with white flowers like these. Leaves picked when the plant's in flower make the best dried-leaf teas. Use the flowers, too.

But if you pick leaves now for a leaf tea, it will tend to harm the plants; you'll get fewer berries later. It may be better to wait on leaves for over-winter leaf teas till after you've picked the berries.

Wild strawberries are smaller than the ones you buy in the supermarket. Those have been bred to be huge, tough against mechanical picking and packing, and to survive weeks between picking, shipping around the country, and store-cooler purchase. They are rather tasteless compared to small, fragrant, wild berries, which are red clear through, sweet, juicy and indescribably delicious. They are probably much higher in natural vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals, too. In some aras, plants keep producing a few green leaves throughout the winter.

Strawberry Fruit and Leaf nutrients/chemicals table from USDA Ethnobotany Informatics (AGIS) database

Wild strawberries can be cultivated in gardens (if the soil and sun are righrt for them) and are sold in classy food stores in major cities for $25/lb. Dig the whole plant, with a soil ball around its roots (after the berries are gone) if you want to try gardening them.

In gathering berry leaves for teas, be aware that a poisonous compound develops in the leaves of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and others after the leaves begin to wilt, soften and curl. Either make teas right after the green leaves are picked or dry them thoroughly in shade (indoors, don't use the oven!) for about 2 weeks until they are crumbly -- the toxins (poisons) will all be gone then. Crumble them in your hands and store in airtight jars in a dark place. Use a teaspoonful of dried leaves per cup of boiling water poured over.

To make an extract of fresh leaves, pack them into a blender, cover with water and blend at slow speed in bursts, just to cut them up fine, not mush it. Put this leafy soup into a pan , bring to a boil, simmer 15 minutes. Leave the choipped leaves in the water for a day in a cool place, thn strain it. By then, the vitamin C (leaves have 4.5 times more of it per unit weight than oranges) which is water-soluble will have passed into the water. If you have a herbal juicer, a gadget sold in some health food dstores, you won't need to boil it and will destroy less of its vitamin and mineral content.

Drink it as a cold or hot tea. To freeze it, add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or cider vinegar per pint to the extract, freeze (dont fill all the way) in small milk cartons. To use, thaw then sweeten to taste with honey or maple syrup.

There's a Midè teaching that after death, on the Spirit Road, the spirit will encounter the temptation of a giant strawberry, and if greedy will remain there eating until turned into a frog. With store strawberries, I figure I'm in no real danger, but a giant tasty wild strawberry....
Mmmm....and if they have a fondue pot of melted bittersweet chocolate to dip the strawberry chunks into right by it ... well, I can hope to maybe be a cute frog anyway with that yummy stuff to pig out, or frog out on ....

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Webmistress --Paula Giese. Text and graphics copyright 1996.

CREDITS: All photos are reduced or cropped from the oversize ones on the University of Wisconsin Botany Department gopher images database. I did the other graphics on this page.

Last Updated: Sunday, January 07, 1996 - 8:00:18 AM