The Lure of Wild Strawberries

The Lure of Wild Strawberries
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One of the bonuses of hiking through the woods and meadows is the natural bounty you often come across. On walks through the meadows, my family and I have often come across patches of wild strawberries.
Along with swatting mosquitoes and black flies, we find it worthwhile to pick these gems. Sometimes there are only a few to eat on the spot. Other times you may find a patch that yields enough for a strawberry shortcake.

Wild strawberries are popular berries growing wild in temperate climates. Medieval records mention that these berries were used for food and medicine. As long ago as the 1400s, wild strawberries were planted in English herb gardens.

Berries in the New World

These berries were growing in the New World when the colonists settled here. They found that the natives collected large quantities of these berries, eating them fresh and drying some for winter use.

The colonists soon were cultivating these American varieties in their gardens. They even sent species of these plants back to England. Many of the commercial cultivated strawberries today are hybrids from plants developed from wild North American varieties.

Many Uses

Wild strawberries have been used for many purposes over the years - strawberry wines, strawberries and cream, strawberry jams and jellies, strawberry shortcake, etc.

Strawberries are high in vitamin C. The leaves, nutritious, too, have been used for strawberry tea, a drink rich in this vitamin.

Strawberry juice was used in years past as a wash for oneÂ’s complexion. The roots and leaves have been utilized as an astringent.

Fragile Berries

Wild strawberries are very fragile berries. They get mushy very quickly. So these berries should be handled carefully when picked and transported. They also should be used, either eaten or preserved as soon as possible.

Making Strawberry Leather

An old-time way to preserve wild strawberries is by making STRAWBERRY LEATHER. This method was used in Europe and by the Indians. The colonists soon were preserving berries this way, too.

The berries were dried into thin cakes the size of pancakes. Then they were eaten that way or made into sauces, pies, and puddings.

Mash the hulled wild strawberries. Then shape into thin cakes. (Sometimes these mashed berries are spread out in thin strips instead of cakes.) Place cakes on platters. (The Indians often used leaves.) Dry in the sun, using screens to keep insects away.

Or you can dry the leather in a 200 degree F. oven. Store in covered containers after the cakes or strips are dried.

A slightly different recipe for WILD STRAWBERRY LEATHER - In a pan, simmer 2 pounds hulled strawberries with 1 cup sugar over low heat. Stir and mash fruit as it cooks and gets as thick as possible.

Then spread the mixture on a flat dish and place in the sun, a food dryer, or low 200 degree oven. When dried, sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into squares. Store in covered container to keep out moisture.

(c)2001 Mary Emma Allen

More Strawberry Features

Picking and Freezing Strawberries

Strawberry Recipes

Strawberry Memories


About The Author

Mary Emma Allen researches and writes from her multi-generational NH home. Check out her new site, Tea Time Notes

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