It’s been a cool wet spring here in the Siskiyous, but on June 9 we found wild strawberries with dead-ripe fruit.
Irresistible! The fruits were tiny, maybe half an inch in diameter, and didn’t want to separate from the leaves so we each ate one leaves and all. Very juicy and red, sweet, but the intense strawberry flavor I expected to find wasn’t really there. Maybe it’s been enhanced by horticultural selection? Or I got one that wasn’t too tasty? I don’t think a store-sized berry could be so ripe as these were, without being a shapeless blob.
As to species, this plant could be either the woodland strawberry (Fragia vesca) or the Virginia strawberry (F. virginiana). Both are found all across North America, and are hard to tell apart. In common parlance, the name “wild strawberry” is applied rather indiscriminately to these two species. A third bearing strawberry in North America is F. chiloensis, the beach strawberry, Chilean strawberry, or coastal strawberry, native to the Pacific Ocean coasts of North and South America, and also Hawaiʻi. Migratory birds are thought to have dispersed F. chiloensis from the Pacific coast of North America to the mountains of Hawaiʻi, Chile, and Argentina.
A hybrid of F. chiloensis (for size) and F. virginiana (for flavor) was first made in 1840 in France and this lineage replaced F. frascaand Musky strawberries (F. moschata) as the commonly cultivated strawberry. But people harvested them long before they cultivated them, and one source says that it was “probably during this time that they acquired the name strawberries from the practice of threading them on straws whilst harvesting them,
or possibly from the term ‘streabariye’ used by the Benedictine monk Aelfric in AD995 to describe the st[r]aying habit of the runners. Certainly the name strawberry was used long before the practice of placing straw around the fruiting plants became widespread.”