Many of the foods we eat are medicinal. It is my belief that Food is Medicine. Every bite and swallow that we imbibe in either nourishes and strengthens the body, mind, and spirit, or in the case of processed, industrialized, or junk food, it harms, depletes, and overloads the body’s systems. Wild and foraged food, if found in a pure, natural environment contain the highest amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants readily absorbed by our human bodies and those of the animals that we raise on our homesteads.
(I refrain from using the word “farm” or “farmstead” because the modernized, mechanized way of doing things has changed the way food is grown on most farms today. It is my experience that those who choose to homestead, or classify their ideals as homesteaders, adhere to a much more natural, holistic view of growing and raising food).
Heirloom seeds bridge the gap between wild & foraged and cultivated. Heirloom plants are able to maintain their high nutritive value as they are the seed that has been curated and saved for countless generations, all being traced back, if you look far enough into their history, to indigenous and native peoples, before the modernized industrial food systems were introduced after the end of World War Two.
Hybrid seed and plants cannot do this. They were developed for seed companies to market to heirloom growers and homesteaders, as a new modern variety, available only through their company. You could not save the seed from these plants as they were engineered to last only for that season, so that you would have to buy more seed from the company for the following year’s crop. This model exploded the use of mail-order seed catalogs and made a very profitable business for a few folks, at the expense of the nutrition and health of the plants as well as the fruit and vegetables that they bore. This has directly impacted the nutrition of both us as the consumers of these fruits and vegetables and the animals that we raise.
On our homestead we are becoming more aware and educated about the value of wild & foraged foods. I grew up foraging for berries to make homemade jellies, jams, and a little country wine, and we have also added wild mushrooms, chaga, dandelions, greens, and herbs to our repritoire. I am excited to learn more each season about the wild foodstuffs and medicines that grow native to our region, and also in our fields and forests of our own homestead.
Enter the Wild Strawberry.
I always knew I loved freshly picked strawberries, but never paused to consider the “Medicinal” qualities of both the leaves of the plant and the fruit. David and I always find joy in looking for wild strawberries. They grow thick in our front pasture and amongst some of our wooded areas. Foraging for wild strawberries is much like a treasure hunt as they are very tiny little berries, (about the size of my pinky fingernail), with big, bold flavor that will knock your socks off, and make your eyes widen with delight! I find it amazing how nature has packed so much power into such a tiny package.
Common Herbs for Natural Health by Juliette de Bairacli Levy describes Wild Strawberries as being high in minerals, antiseptic, cooling, strengthening, healing, and a mild vermifuge (anti-parasitic). They were utilized extensively by Native Americans. Beyond the fruit, the leaves and root of the plant are also medicinal, administered as a tea for fever, to thin blood, treat lowered vitality, feeble nerves, a lack of appetite, bowel and stomach disorders, liver diseases, and undue sweating. The leaves were also utilized in treating and preventing miscarriage, and bringing balance to irregular menstration.
The fruit of the plant, the berry, is a powerful nerve tonic. It is thought to soothe and strengthen the nerves. Wild Strawberries are higher in iron than those that are cultivated, and therefore an important part of a foraged, seasonal plant-based diet. The leaves can be eaten raw, a handful per day, and are great tossed in with salad. With Wild Strawberries’ strengthening, cleansing, and antiseptic qualities, one can understand why they would be an important part of a seasonal, traditional diet, to cleanse, rebuild, and strengthen the body after a long winter.
Externally, Wild Strawberries have wonderful antiseptic qualities. The fruit may be used as a cleanser and brightener for teeth and facial applications. The drawing power of the fruit whitens teeth and lightens dark spots, discoloration, and blemishes in the skin. The leaves, when brewed into a tea, can be used as a soothing and healing lotion for eczema, sore/tired eyes, and styes surrounding the eyes and the lids.
Wild Strawberries pack a powerful punch for such a dainty little package. I plan to utilize the medicinal properties of the plant and fruit much more readily now that I understand what a powerful herbal ally they really are. I would imagine that my organically grown heirloom descendants out in the garden still retain at least trace amounts of these properties. It is no wonder they are so good!!!!