By Kristi Dranginis
While looking at the wild strawberry plants I thought to myself, "Just one more day!" Just one more day and that beautiful little fruit will be perfectly ripe". Though tempting, I decided to wait another day and allow the luscious little red fruit to ripen just a bit more under the summer sun. Well, as it turned out, I was not the only one keeping an eye on that fruit. By the time I came back the next day to my favorite little forest patch of wild strawberries, a yellow jacket was already fast at work on the juiciest part of the fruit. Oh, how many fruits I have relinquished to the creatures of the forest! Ants, squirrels, mice, yellow jackets, slugs and bears all love to feast on these sweet summer treats.
If you have never taken the opportunity to sit amongst a patch of wild strawberry plants (Fragaria species) and savor one of the tiny fruits you may be missing one of the sweetest and most nutritious foods available in nature. Even though the wild varieties are about ten times smaller than the cultivated garden varieties, their flavor and sweetness is unmatched. Also, they are rich in vitamins A and C, as well as high in iron, potassium and calcium.
Both the leaves and root have significant medicinal value as well. A tea of properly dried leaves can be used in a similar manner as Raspberry leaf for women throughout all phases of pregnancy. Janice Schofield, in her book "Discovering Wild Plants", says "The tea is also said to stimulate milk production of nursing mothers, and to settle stomachs of those troubled by morning sickness." The roots and leaves are also astringent and can be used to support your body when it is affected by diarrhea, dysentery and urinary tract issues.
Further, strawberry leaves are considered isotonic (having the same salinity as body fluids) and according to Michael Moore in "Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West" can be used as a wash for eyes, a douche, or enema. They also can be used as an antiseptic wash for skin conditions, minor wounds and sore throat.
The toothed three-leaflet are easy to find in open acrid forests and beach edges. The biggest challenge is finding the little red berries that like to hide under the large leaves. But, this part I don't mind because it gives me a chance to get down on the ground and be closer to earth. I like to tend my forest patch of wild strawberry plants with a little extra water in the dry part of the summer to give those tiny tasty berries an extra boost.
To find out more about different varieties check out this Oregon State Article
To learn more about wild edibles check out the Edible Wild Plants Course.