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The sweetness of wild roses and wild strawberries

Karen Wils photo The sweetness of wild roses and wild ­strawberries is on display.

ESCANABA — Wild strawberries and wild roses are the very essence of June in Upper Michigan.

Fragile and fragrant, both plants are a part of early summer magic.

It is really hard to say which plant smells better — the gentle sweet rose petals or the fruity, juicy, ripe wild strawberry.

Native Americans have referred to June as the strawberry moon for many decades. Both the wild strawberry and the wild rose plants have been treasures for their berries and rose hips. Teas, medicines and poultices have been made from both plants.

Wild roses and wild strawberries grow on the same turf.

They thrive in sandy open fields, forest edges and shorelines throughout Michigan.

Back when I was a child, the perfect June day meant a hike to the Bay Shore with my older aunties or uncle. Growing up in north Escanaba in the 1960s was a time of a more carefree life style.

Beyond the tracks and trains that carried in pelletized iron ore from the mines up north to the docks in Escanaba, were green rolling hills.

The hills were dotted with jack pine and oak trees and ended at a beautiful sandy beach. The path to the Bay Shore was home to some of the plumpest wild strawberries I ever picked.

The heady aroma of wild roses hung in the hot June air on the way to the lake. The wild roses were all in bloom while we picked strawberries. For as sweet as the roses smelled, they made up for it in nastiness with their thorny bushes. Trying to pluck a wild rose was a tricky job. If you were lucky enough to snag a pretty pink flower, the flimsy petals usually didn’t last the walk back home.

We picked a lot of wild strawberries when we were kids. Not only would we find them around the north shore near home but we would also pick them in the clearings around camp.

Wild strawberries are much sweeter than tame strawberries, but cleaning the tiny things was time consuming. I remember how red our little finger tips would get from processing a bunch of berries.

Sometimes Mom would let us sugar the strawberries mash them and eat them with vanilla ice cream. If we had a half a coffee can full of wild strawberries, Mom would make jam.

Kids and teenagers of today would not be too likely to spend much time picking wild berries or noticing wild roses. Many of the areas were wild strawberries and wild roses once inhabited are now paved over, developed, landscaped or locked away behind gates.

But there’s still a few of us old-timers that can’t wait to take an early morning stroll in June along an almost forgotten path by the river or lake shore just to smell the wild roses and taste a tiny wild strawberry again!

New born rays,

Of this infant season,

Deliver birth to the finest scents!

Promised early in May

By nourishing showers,

Both bush and plant take root.

Smiled upon,

By June’s sunshine,

Wild delights come to ripen.

The perfect couple

Blends in harmony

The finest union of the finest aromas.

Gentle pink

And radiant red,

Tint both bush and berry.

Sweet easy

Winds whistle

Gentle lullaby’s to soothe.

With a texture

So supple,

Petals flit in the breeze, berries lie low.

——

Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.

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