One of the most delectable native plant foods has to be the strawberry (Fragaria spp). A member of the rose family (Rosaceae), strawberry covers the understory of the forest with its creeping rhizomes shooting out laterally in search of more habitat. Like roses they prefer an acidic soil. You must have a keen eye during the short fruiting season to spot them before the chipmunks and squirrels. Often as the leaves are just showing the change from green to red the berries are ripening, making it a visual challenge as the runners are also red.
The red color is due to the presence of bioflavanoid molecules. These are anti-inflammatory antioxidants that impart healing effects specifically with connective tissue. Connective tissue includes ligaments, tendons, joint surfaces, and tissue in the arteries, blood vessels, and heart. Every active person (everyone really) should consider the value and importance of these medicinal foods. Really if one eats a whole food diet high in fruits and vegetables you are getting many of these important molecular constituents. Higher doses can be found in concentrated medicines and can act as more of a pain reliever. Antioxidants are important medicines contained in many plants helping slow down the aging or breakdown of tissues.
Interestingly frozen berries contain higher levels of these medicinal constituents than fresh berries at the store. A cup of frozen berries is a good amount to eat in a day and a smoothie is a great way to incorporate frozen or fresh strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, or thimbleberries. Colors of red and blue often indicate the presence of these flavanoid molecules.
Strawberries also make a nice whitening agent for the teeth. The seeds and the fruit are to be ground into a mush and the juice should remain on the teeth for five minutes followed by a warm water rinse. Some recommend adding a pinch of bicarbonate (baking soda) to the warm water for the rinse. A tea can be prepared with the leaves and stems. The tea can be tart and the medicinal effects are rather mild. Other uses include topical juice application for sunburn. Cree Indians made a tea with the root combined with Yarrow. Blackfoot Indians boiled leaves and made a poultice for topical application.
Some plants are so tasty and so special when you see them in nature it is an absolute gift to enjoy when the opportunity arises. With freezer storage of berries preserving many of the desirable medicinal properties, we can enjoy these all year long. Whether it is for heart health, capillary fragility, ligament or tendon health, or just for the wonderful flavor, the strawberry plant is a hardy medicinal food that deserves recognition in the pharmacopeia of native foods.