The tiny wild strawberries are beginning to ripen. These are not cultivated berries. You have to search for them in wooded areas and on the side of dirt roads. They like to hide under their foliage, so you really need a keen eye to find them. But they are so worth finding, and their time is so short. Each year when they arrive, they announce the next wonderful phase.
|A wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca).|
Most people have probably never seen these because you will never find them in a store. For one thing, they’re far too small. This is about as big as they get. Their color never gets to a deep ruby red but rather stays as a bright crimson. They are not nearly as sweet as cultivated berries, having just a hint of sweetness but with an outstanding taste of naked strawberry. And finally, they don’t travel well at all, so you really couldn’t ship them anywhere.
These are a spur-of-the-moment snack that you never strike out deliberately to find but stumble upon entirely by accident. In fact, if you deliberately look for them, I can assure you that you will not find them. They love to hide. Even the birds have a hard time finding them, and that’s saying something. But if you stumble upon them completely unaware and take them by surprise, you are in for a real treat. They are pure strawberry and nothing else.
There are some things that must be experienced to be believed. The first of these is the experience of the bounty of the Earth through free food. This is not a “free lunch” from a friend or a coupon to buy one and get one free. This is pure bounty strewn everywhere, haphazardly, in a tremendous and beautiful disarray. It is a reminder that food--sustenance--is part and parcel of the deal of life, and it is everywhere if we only open our eyes.
The next thing is the freshness of the food. Actually, “freshness” is not a good word, really. Freshness merely implies a better state than rotten. When food like this is found, it is literally alive. The very second before you pick the berry, it is connected to the energy grid of the Earth. It has communed with the sun that morning. It has drunk heavily of the rains. It is a living thing put there as part and parcel of the deal of life. Now it lives, now you live.
I used to think it was just in my imagination that every time I ate wild food from the woods, I would feel a bit lightheaded. It’s not a bad “lightheaded” but a good one. It’s hard to explain, but I feel that I see and hear things just a bit differently. As I said, I used to think it was in my imagination, but it happens every time. I often wonder if it has to do with the extreme vitality in the food I’m eating. Organic food from a store is quite good, but it has already lost its spirit, I think. Food in the woods has not done so, and I think the energy just passes from one creature to another. The Earth is not picky.
The raspberries are coming, too. Later we’ll collect the tiny wild blueberries--thousands and thousands of them!--and after that, the blackberries. The lambsquarters and the dandelions are churning out tons of greens, and later in the fall the mushrooms will come. It is a veritable smorgasbord, and it’s all free. Adjust your tastes, adjust your mind, adjust your lifestyle and become part and parcel of the deal of life. Your end will come eventually, but that is part of the deal, too.