Smaller and firmer than their cultivated counterparts, wild strawberries grow in the same woodland glades which will later be adorned with delicious fungi…
These small sweet berries are nothing like the familiar cultivated versions which derive principally from North American relatives. Our wild variety shares the same characteristic trefoil leaves, however and is locally common, particularly on chalky soils. It is shade-tolerant and often springs up in large numbers, particularly in woodland after felling has disturbed the soil. Its taste varies widely, however, with the sweetest reputedly coming from those growing wild among limestone rocks where the reflected heat helps ripening. Similarly, they are often found in large numbers along old railway lines where the runners straggle across the clinker, benefiting from the warmer microclimate.
Wild strawberries fruit throughout the summer and although often fairly abundant, picking large numbers is difficult and the process is tedious beyond belief. The effort is well worthwhile, however, for the berries have an intense flavour, quite unlike the moist cultivated version. One compromise solution, however, is to treat them more as a herb than an ingredient. In his classic Food for Free, Richard Mabey, suggests putting a few in a summer salad or pureeing a handful with a little wine and using as a sauce. As such they could work particularly well drizzled over smoked duck’s breast or used to adorn a home made sorbet.
This article is reproduced by kind permission of Daniel Butler www.fungiforays.co.uk