Common name: Wild strawberry, alpine strawberry, fraise des bois
Botanical name: Fragaria vesca
Family: Rosaceae (Rose)
Worldwide distribution: Most of Europe, temperate Asia and North America.
Local distribution: Very common throughout Britain and Ireland.
Habitat: Woodland clearings, grassy places, hedge banks, hillsides and scrubland.
Foraging season: Leaves early to mid-spring and fruit late spring to early summer.
The wild strawberry plants we see in the woodlands are not escapees, but native plants completely different to the domestic varieties we plant in our gardens.
Unwary foragers often miss the chance to pick these beautiful little gems, as they are often well camouflaged under the leaves. Mind you, their diminutive size would never lead one to suspect the flavoursome nature of the wild strawberry, much sweeter than its larger counterpart.
It’s incredible how these little berries can pack so much flavour, making up for in taste what they lack in size. Unfortunately, it really takes dedicated picking to collect many wild strawberries, but it is definitely worth the effort.
The fruit is rich in sugars and vitamins B, C and E. The young leaves are mildly astringent, diuretic, laxative and tonic and so they can be used in herbal teas for diarrhoea, digestive upsets and urinary complaints.
Wild strawberries have an extremely sweet flavour and a hint of vanilla. The fruit is best eaten fresh on its own and can be served with cream or ice cream. Preserve into jams, jellies and syrups or use in muesli and granola mixes.