As a young teen, one of my first jobs was picking mouthwatering strawberries for a few weeks during the longest days of the year for a truck farmer near Excelsior. Picking time is fast-approaching in southern Minnesota.
Later as a naturalist and teacher, I introduced wild-berry picking to hundreds of summer field biology students, and they all relished the small fruit. Over the years, I have heard many strawberry lovers say that they consider the wild fruit tastier than domestic varieties.
It’s not certain how the strawberry got its name. Some authorities think it’s because straw was spread around the plants in gardens to keep down weeds and protect the ripening fruit from the soil. Others think the berry got its name because the runners, or aboveground stems, resemble straw pieces, or because of the old European practice of stringing wild strawberries on straws of grass.
What we do know is that the wild strawberry plant grows in many parts of the world, and offers delicious fruit and great fall color across north-central North America.
Each leaf has three coarsely toothed leaflets on a slender stalk. Flowers in clusters on separate stalks bloom in mid- to late spring, and are insect pollinated. The plants spread easily by the runners and can quickly colonize new areas.
Jim Gilbert’s observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota. He taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.