It is said that First Man and First Woman lived together in happiness for a long, long time. Then for some reason they began to quarrel and First Woman left heading east toward the Dawnland.
First man followed her sadly, grieving all the way, but First Woman kept going and never looked behind herself. Then Creator took pity on the man asking if he was still angry with his wife. He replied he was not and asked to have her back again.
Creator caused a patch of ripe blueberries to appear on her path; First Woman passed them without even a second glance. Further along, he placed a patch of luscious blackberries; again, she refused to look.
Then, Creator placed other fruits and berries beside her path to tempt her but she continued on until, suddenly, right in front of her she saw a patch of large ripe strawberries, the very first ever known. As she bent down to gather some to eat, she glanced to the west and memories of her husband rushed into her mind. She sat and ate more berries and her feelings and desire for her husband became stronger. Finally, she gathered as many berries as she could and headed back to give them to First Man. He met her along the way with kindness, so they went home together and, yes, lived happily ever after.
American Indians have long use the wild strawberry as an edible and medicinal plant. The berries were eaten as a cold remedy before vitamin C was discovered. This is also true for cranberries. Strawberry juice mixed with water was used as a poultice for reddened eyes, for infected sores and to ease the pain of sunburn. Bitters were made from the roots and used as a spring tonic and blood toner to rid winter toxins. The berries themselves were made into a paste to remove tartar, clean teeth and even to ease toothache pain.
The strawberry is a member of the rose family. It is different and unique as it is the only fruit with its seeds on the outside. Birds are responsible for the large distribution of wild strawberries as the seeds pass through them mostly intact. The seeds respond to light as they germinate, so they do not need to be covered by soil to start growing.
It is said that if you break a double strawberry in half and share it with someone, you will fall in love.
During the 20th century most of the natural berries were pushed out of the commercial market and replaced with over-sized, tasteless hybrids. Today, there are over 600 varieties of strawberries. They differ in size, flavor and texture. It seems the smaller the berry, the more intense the flavor. Strawberries are the most popular berry in the world.
1 pint (2 cups) strawberries, hulled and sliced
6 cups Mesclun or Wild Field Greens
½ cup pine nuts or walnuts
½ cup Craisins or golden raisins
2 or more tablespoons goat cheese
Toss strawberries, greens, nuts, craisins, and goat cheese in a large bowl. Drizzle with well-blended vinaigrette or dressing of choice just before serving.
Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: New Native American Cooking, Native New England Cooking and A Dreamcatcher Book. She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for over 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with them and her husband in Madison, Connecticut.