“Did I ever tell you the story of how strawberries got their name?” my Dad would ask.
My sisters and I would laugh and roll our eyes. Dad would throw us a friendly nudge. All of us knew that he had in fact told us that story. Too many times to count (though I was secretly happy to hear it over and over again).
Today we picked blackberries and strawberries fresh from the vine at Stehly Organic Farms in Valley Center. I was sure to stop and tell the girls how strawberries got their name.
“Back in the day, farmers placed hay instead of plastic at the base of strawberry plants to protect the berries from frost and mold,” I shared confidently. “That’s why they’re called strawberries.”
They didn’t care much about my fun fact, mostly interested in who could find the juiciest ones.
Walking away with berry stained hands and the earth still under my nails, I thought of my dad (I always do).
I thought of his family who owns Loftus Farms in Indiana. I thought of us as kids planting a garden in the backyard that never seemed to grow. I thought about pulling weeds and doing chores on Sundays, my dad in his white construction shirt, old blue jeans and a baseball cap. I thought of the way he would eat a whole apple, seeds and all, maybe spare the stem. A peach would be cleaned to the pit.
Did you know that strawberries are also known as “the heart berry” in many indigenous cultures because of their shape? Or that the word strawberry comes from the Old English streawberige because the plant sends out runners that look like pieces of straw.
Planted in the hearts and minds of me and my daughters are little seeds of curiosity and the magic of folklore sparked by strawberries. In this place, Dad, you are alive and well.