Wild Strawberries from the Garden

Fraises des bois du jardin

High up on my life list is to one day have a garden, a vegetable patch and an orchard.

In the meantime, I have to settle for windowsills and tiny balconies on which Maxence, who is The Official Gardener around here, plants and pampers a lush jungle, making the absolute most of every square inch of space and railing. I have little patience for that sort of thing, but I am certainly grateful for his efforts and happy to enjoy the benefits — green, green, green through every window, flowers and herbs and, most recently, fruit.

I insisted, because when you buy a plant or a little bag of seeds, what you really buy is the dream, the possibility of it growing and blossoming and making you proud.

Last spring on the Quai de la Mégisserie where gardening and pet stores abound, I was the one who insisted we buy a small pot of fraises des bois, those teeny strawberries that grow mostly in the wild and which the observant little girl (if properly trained by her mother) can spot and feast on in the mountain underbrush.

To be truthful, I didn’t think ours would ever bear fruit. Not because I doubted Maxence’s skills, but simply because I couldn’t imagine it actually happening. Still I insisted, because when you buy a plant or a little bag of seeds, what you really buy is the dream, the possibility of it growing and blossoming and making you proud.

Despite my doubts, the plant we bought developed into a healthy-looking little shrub on our bathroom windowsill; delicate flowers soon started to bloom.

And do you know how this works? When the petals fall from strawberry flowers, their heart keeps swelling and then droop under the weight of their elongated shape. It takes them just a few more days to blush and blush until bright red, at which point Maxence harvests them and comes to share the minuscule bounty with me — usually one or two strawberries at a time, each of them softly sweet, uniquely acidulated and astonishingly flavorful for a thing so tiny.

Strawberry flower

In his general campaign to encourage the growth of anything green (there is no such thing as a mauvaise herbe in his world), Maxence also plants in little pots whatever looks remotely like it could sprout and flourish into something interesting. He recently planted a potato that had been biding its time in the potato basket for a tad too long, and this developed into quite the funky leafy thing on the mini-balcony outside our bedroom window.

But after a few weeks the plant started to wilt and Maxence decided to put it out of its misery: he dug it out and oh, surprise and utter disbelief, six brand new potatoes plus a few really really small ones, had been quietly materializing out of thin air — or thin earth as it happens. I know I know, city kids and all that, but never before had I seen with my own eyes how potatoes grew, and on our windowsill, too! Who would have thunk? And they tasted particularly good, simply steamed and sprinkled with a little fleur de sel.

Strawberries and potatoes. Man, we are so close to self-sufficiency. Should we start a commune you think?

Home-grown potatoes

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