Look for small white blossoms, later bright red fruit, on runners that spread across the ground. They grow best in gravely soil. The scientific name Fragaria means fragrant, and refers to the smell of the ripe fruit. Anyone who has eaten the small red berries knows the wild fruit is delicious, with much more flavour than domestic fruit.
The fruit was highly prized by all First Nations people, and “the Dakota even called their lunar month corresponding to June Wazhushtecha-hu or the moon when strawberries are ripe.” (Kindscher 117) Johnston reports the Hand Hills in Alberta were called Oht-tchis-tchis, or Strawberry Hills, by the Blackfoot. (38)
As the fruit is very juicy, many researchers claim it was only used fresh. But Kindscher reports that, “the artist George Catlin, after visiting the Mandan in 1832...stated that: ‘Great quantities of wild fruit of different kinds are dried and laid away in Store for the winter season, such as buffalo berries, service berries, strawberries, and wild plums.’” (117)
Johnston (38) and Wilkinson (101) report the leaves, both fresh and dried, were infused into a tea, and the roots were used as a diarrhea remedy.
Will be added soon.
Johnston, Alex. 1987. Plants and the Blackfoot. Occasional Paper No. 15., Lethbridge Historical Society, AB.
Kindscher, Kelly. 1987. Edible Wild Plants of the Prairies. University Press of Kansas.
Wilkinson, Kathleen. 1999. Wildflowers of Alberta: A Guide to Common Wildflowers and Other Herbaceous Plants. University of Alberta Press and Lone Pine Publishing, AB.