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Thursday, June 22, 2017

EXPLORING THE NIAGARA FRONTIER: The wild strawberry

All WNY News     Thursday, June 22, 2017    



When hiking with the uninitiated in the Niagara Frontier’s June wilds I like to tell them that they haven’t lived until they’ve had a wild strawberry.

It certainly sounds like an absurd statement, doesn’t it? If you’ve had one strawberry, you’ve had them all.

Not so.

The wild strawberry is nothing like our cultivated specimens. The flavor is intense, at a magnitude of that of the farmed varieties. They are juicier and seem like an entirely different fruit. Incredible.

After having one you can see why the French began developing and cultivating strawberries in the 1700s. But, by doing so and making larger fruits, they lost much of the flavor (don’t get me wrong – farm raised strawberries are still pretty good).

“Larger fruits,” you ask?

Yes, wild strawberries are nothing like those developed by Man. They are tiny little things, from two-
tenths to four-tenths of an inch in length. You’d need to find dozens to make for a snack of any size. And, that’s not going to happen. You’d be lucky to find just one dozen strawberries in a patch. You can find these berries during the second half of June, in open areas of woodlands, pastures, and places that some naturalists consider “waste areas” (roadsides, ditches, rail beds, etc).

They like full sun or else the plant cannot produce fruit. Prior to the strawberry appearing, you will see a dainty white-petaled flower with a yellow center that will stay in bloom for most of the second half of May.

The leaves have saw-toothed edges and come in threes. The adage “leaves of three, let it be,” (which
many people apply to poison ivy) has to be ignored if not altered, or you could destroy these wonderful plants in your lawn or hedgerow.

There are plenty of tasty plants (like clovers and wood sorrels) and beautiful plants (trilliums, Jack in the Pulpit) with three leaves, so proceed with caution before spraying Round-up on these plants. If you do find the flowering strawberry plants in the spring, weed around them so you can enjoy the fruits.

While we’re talking about the strawberry, let’s end on a technical note. Maybe you’ll win Jeopardy! someday with this one.

The strawberry is not a berry. By definition a berry has seeds inside of it. The seeds are on the outside of the strawberry, which means the strawberry is an aggregate accessory fruit, which is a nicer way of saying “ovary” (who really wants to say, “Boy! I could go for some ovaries right now”?). Each of those individuals items that you see as seeds on the outside of the strawberry are actually individual fruits and the seeds are inside of them.

But, enough of the technical mumbo-jumbo. You really need to get away from the computer, go
outdoors and have a wild strawberry…you haven’t lived until you’ve done so.



+Bob Confer is a Gasport resident. His column, Exploring the Niagara Frontier, is published every Thursday on All WNY News.

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