"When an Ojibway dies, his body is placed in a grave... facing the west... The soul is supposed to start immediately after death of the body, on a deep beaten path, which leads westward; the first object he comes to, in following this path, is the great Oda-e-min (Heart berry), or strawberry, which stands on the roadside like a huge rock, and from which he takes a handful and eats on his way... After camping out four nights, and travelling each day through a prairie country, the soul arrives in the land of spirits, where he finds his relatives accumulated since mankind was first created; all is rejoicing, singing and dancing; they live in a beautiful country interspersed with clear lakes and streams, forests and prairies, and abounding in fruit and game to repletion - in a word, abounding in all that the red man covets in this life..."
-William W. Warren
I have lived most of my life in the embrace of the Rocky Mountains. I remember seeing wild strawberry plants, pretty often, growing beside trails, but i always thought they didn't make fruit. Until one July day, a couple years ago.
I was returning from the restroom at one of our favourite camp sites, aware that i was walking over a carpet of strawberry and kinnikinnik. All around were juniper bushes and aspen. I looked down at the strawberry leaves, and saw a few white flowers. I also saw some stems and leaves turning red. All over were what i thought were little red leaves. But when i looked closer, i noticed that at the end of a red stem was a tiny red strawberry! I ate it. It was amazing. What it lacked in size it made up for in flavour. Wild strawberries are not a replacement for commercial strawberries. Commercial strawberries are a replacement for wild strawberries. There is nothing else like them. I looked around and realised i was surrounded by thousands of tiny strawberries. This was like a miracle to me. It was a huge turning point in my life. I hastily ate a handful, and went & got Rico & Fynn and a friend who was camping with us. We sat Fynn down in the carpet of strawberries as we ate one after the other.
A couple weekends ago, we went up to see if we could find a few, thinking that the season was probably over. We sat in the same carpet, looking, and it seemed as if we were too late. But before we had given up, we saw a tiny red gem peeking out from beneath a leaf! And then another one. And then another one! Fynn had the biggest smile i had ever seen on him as he became the strawberry messenger- delivering 'one for mama, one for papa, and one for fynn!' I rarely see him so happy!
While we were looking for strawberries, we also harvested strawberry leaves and raspberry leaves to take home & dry for tea. Strawberry leaf tea has a lot of the same medicinal qualities as raspberry leaf. But it tastes more delicious- like a mountainside, which it is. It has more vitamin C than ANY FOOD known, and it is alkalizing and astringent... but that's just the beginning. We put some fresh leaves in our water and that made it DELICIOUS.
We have been drinking fresh strawberry leaf water for days on end and feel all the livelier for it. It's delicious- next July see if you can find some too! I want to give a quick warning about strawberry leaves. When they are fresh, they are safe, and when they are completely dry they are safe too. But never ever eat them or make tea from them when they have wilted. Once they have begun the drying process they contain a toxin that will make you very sick. Like i said, once they've dried completely, that toxin is no longer present. You can pick fresh leaves and put them in your water, or tea, but once they begin to look wilty throw them out or put them aside to dry. Unfortunately (or fortunately) i found out the hard way last summer and experienced an unnecessary trip to the emergency room. It wasn't until after that ridiculous ordeal that i read about the adverse effects of the wilted leaves. Thankfully i was able to experience this first hand, and that strengthens my love for & relationship with the strawberry!