Where the Wild Strawberry Grows

Along a quiet mountain trail nestled among the tangled weeds, lay hidden the wild strawberry.

Wild strawberries are tiny but incredibly sweet and full of flavor nuances that are missing in the massive cultivated varieties available in grocery stores. The grocery store varieties were hybridized from wild strawberries; which are the  common Fragaria virginiana and Fragaria chiloensis. After farmers in Persia started cultivating this delicious plant, traders carried the seeds along the Silk Road to both the Far East and Europe. Linnaeus named this genus in 1753, giving it the classical Latin name for the strawberry plant.   “Fragaria’ is from the Latin “fraga” which is our English “fragrant”.

When out hiking this summer in the Rocky Mountains, you will notice the Fragaria vesca ~ wild strawberry,  by its white and sometimes tinged with pink flowers, which have five, broad, egg-shaped (ovate) petals.  The leaves are toothed and typically have three leaflets.  They are a creeping plant that spreads by sending out runners (long stems that grow parallel to the ground before sending up new plants.) The plant prefers direct sunlight, but it can survive in the shade, although plants in the shade sometimes may not produce fruit.  These hidden gems are not picky about where they grow.  You may see them growing in meadows, forests, along roadways and even sprawling among rocky outcroppings.

You will have to be timely in planning your wild strawberry foraging  because the fruit is also enjoyed by a variety of birds and animals.  Deer and elk enjoy eating the leaves.  If you miss this season’s harvest,  know that getting eaten by an animal or bird is the strawberry’s strategy for spreading; the seeds get scattered in droppings.   So, you may be dining on next year’s crop from what was left from “behind!”


Wild Strawberry Salsa

8 ounces wild strawberries (remove stems, rinse, no need to cut due to small size)

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 medium avocado, chopped

1 small shallot, finely chopped

⅛ teaspoon salt

2 cups cilantro leaves

Juice from half of a lime

Combine all ingredients together, stir gently.  Let stand 20 minutes for flavors to blend.  Use immediately or refrigerate for later use.