Sunday, June 21, 2009

wild strawberries

Their long tendrils have always snaked and twined through the perennial garden, a hold over from the fact that our first efforts at gardening were gone about backwards. Our gardens are in a field thick with native grasses, clover, madder, goldenrod, buttercup, sensitive fern, and apparently wild strawberries. When we first broke the land that is now a terraced rose and flower garden, we didn’t know about nifty machines that scrape the top layer of sod from areas in which you’d like to garden. We knew about solarization—when you mow the grasses and weeds, wet them, and cover with sturdy clear plastic, digging the ends down into the earth to trap the vegetation so that after six to eight weeks of high sun the meadow growth is dead. But I am too impatient, and wanted to get started “right away”. So each year we wage the constant battle of weeding and digging invasive weeds out of the flower garden. Each year the weeds gets a little less, but I think there will always be a ghost of the field appearing between the rugosa and lady’s mantle.

Along with the wild mint that invades the beds, wild strawberry has always been present, and the two get pulled-up throughout the summer. I have never seen one of these culprits bear fruit. But this spring, I found a beautiful specimen looking full and pretty with yellow blossoms, and I thought, why not see if anything happens? At the same time, our daily walks through the field that is now becoming the vineyard, we see and name the things growing because we know these will effect not only the growth of our grapes—indicating the health and type of our soil—but also the flavor. We find an intricate and almost hidden network of alpine strawberries with tiny white flowers spreading across the top of the meadow floor. I am pleased at the thought that my wines may have “wild strawberry” somewhere in their flavor profile.

Just a few days later, I am clipping the grasses and weeds from the vine rows by hand, crouched down with a Japanese scissors, and I see a little flash of red. A wild strawberry! I pick and taste. It is lush and delicate at the same time, bursting with bright flavor. I see another spot of red, and another. The field is covered in fruit. I call Caleb to drop his work in the green house, and after the sun has slipped behind the crest of the Chateauguay above us, we pick strawberries for dessert.

I am still waiting on that succulent-looking plant in the rose garden.


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