PLATTSBURGH — It takes a determined berry picker to make a meal, or even a solo shortcake, out of wild strawberries.
But berry lovers know it’s worth the effort.
“There is nothing like that blast of sweet, strawberry flavor,” said Pat Banker, a wild-foods educator from Franklin County.
Wild strawberries are the essence of strawberry: tangy and intense. These are nature’s Sweet Tarts. It’s hard to believe that so much flavor can be jammed into such a small package. But finding that package and picking it is demanding. Wild strawberries are juicy, delicate, tiny and — hiding under the plant’s distinctive three-leaf foliage — easy to squish in the picking.
For Banker, picking more than a mouthful is tough. She calls them a “ground to mouth” treat.
“It’s usually one for cup, two for me, one for cup, two for me,” she said, describing her picking pattern.
Regardless of your picking strategy, if you want to find wild strawberries, the time to look is now.
Traditionally, the summer solstice, June 20, marks the height of the wild-strawberry season. You can find the plants in sunny meadows, along sun-exposed roadsides and even in lawns. But to get to the berries, you’ll have to get down on your hands and knees, combing through the foliage. And make sure to bring some insect repellant: This brief berry season coincides with a busy time for mosquitoes, blackflies and deer flies.
BERRIES FOR DAD
For Plattsburgh forager Tammy Daniels, wild strawberries bring memories of another calendar landmark: Father’s Day. Growing up in the Northern Tier, Daniels and her mother picked wild berries of all kinds. Disappointed that no picking was to be had over Mother’s Day, which falls too early in the season for berries, they instead made wild strawberries a Father’s Day tradition.
“It was kind of a joke, because my dad wasn’t really into picking berries. But it is a fun thing to do together,” she said.
Daniels and her mother are committed pickers, often harvesting enough wild strawberries for jam and pie.
And what dad could resist the sweet gift of wild berries — on Father’s Day or any other day?
Do you have a favorite wild edible that is coming into season now? If you have recipes or experiences you would like to share, contact Jack Downs: email@example.com.