A lot of people bang on about the great British strawberry, well this is it. Not the big juicy behemoths you get in a bowl with meringues and cream at Wimbledon, but this dainty little morsel. It maybe small but it packs one hell of a punch, a sharp, sweet yet pleasant flavour. Of course it varies from each berry and there are not ever that many to go round.
The name derives from the way in which they grow, originally “Strewberries” referring to the way in which the strawberries are found strewn about on runners from this incredibly invasive plant. When I was small we used to go to the PYO farm nearby and my father referred to them as Stawbuggers…good name! They can be found in almost any garden often growing in rockeries. They are, out in the wild, particularly fond of heath land, verges and grassy banks.
As for the their properties, despite being lip-smackingly good, they are very good for you. Over the centuries they have been used to treat digestive ailments, the leaves and roots were believed to be good for treating gout. The berry has been used to ease sunburn and the juice as a teeth whitener. It is worth noting that, other than tennis and summer, the strawberry is synonymous with romance. Strawberries and champagne often purchased by lovers for a romantic night in, this was true in the past too: The heart shaped berries and vivid red colour made it the symbol for Venus, the goddess of love. Though as to its use as an aphrodisiac I ‘m not sure, I would rather have one of these to get me in the mood rather than an oyster!
This summer (what there has been of it) I have had an annoying habit of poking about friend’s gardens at BBQs and quite often come back with a handful of wild strawberries. The problem is you don’t get much for your money with these. What I tend to do is chuck a bunch of them in my wine/champagne glass, this immediately gets most of the females in any given situation going “I want some in mine!” Venus at work indeed, fella’s take note! The other option is to make some canapés, a bunch of meringues broken into bite size chunks loaded with cream and 3-4 wild strawberries makes for a truly rustic mouthful. The leaves also make a very fine herbal tea, just steep a few leaves in hot water for ten minutes. These particular pictures were taken at my friend George’s house. On spying them by the back door I beckoned him over and asked him if he knew he had a bumper crop of wild strawberries and had he ever tasted them? To which he replied: “ Jog on Attenborough, I’ve lived here all my, life of course I know!” or something to that effect. Sometimes when it comes to the business of wild food I can be a bit of a smart-arse, I was only too happy to be firmly put in my place.
The Wild strawberry is a fair-weather friend and is only around from June to September, so you have just under a month to enjoy these gorgeous fruits. Eat as many as you want, you will be hard pressed to be full up on them!