Fraises des Bois

Strawberries of the woods are everything supermarket strawberries aren't: tiny, delicate, costly, seasonal, and extremely flavorful.

Christopher Hirsheimer

Strawberries of the woods, or fraises des bois (as the French call them), are everything supermarket strawberries aren't: tiny, delicate, costly, seasonal, and extremely flavorful.

Several varieties of this wild berry have been growing in forests all over the world since prehistoric times, and though there have been countless efforts to domesticate and improve them, the truth is that no one has succeeded in breeding a strawberry that compares to its wild cousin when it comes to taste.

The French are particularly fond of wild strawberries. From June through September, platters full of the deep red berries greet guests as they walk into restaurants lucky enough to have a supply. Millefeuilles made with the berries might be offered, but the best way to enjoy them is a la nature, plain, with a bit of creme fraiche.

Some specialty produce markets across this country import the berries from France periodically during the summer, or may offer a native American wild strawberry, Fragaria vesca var. americana, which grows in the spring in fields in the eastern states.

Tiny alpine strawberries, autumn-fruiting varieties of Fragaria vesca, are popular with home gardeners for a taste of the wild woods.