Lenonah and her family lived by a wide creek; they had all the
water and natural foods they needed to survive and be happy. Lenonah
was known for her beautiful, long, almost black hair and for her
very good foraging skills. She could pick baskets and baskets full
of berries faster than her sisters and her mother.
There were many berry-pickin places near their lodge,
and the girls knew them all, except for a couple only Lenonah knew
about. Lenonah was quite fond of wild strawberries and ate most
of what she picked. One day, her sisters noticed that her beautiful
long hair was getting lighter and lighternearly red! They
were worried, but Lenonah didnt think anything of it. She
thought it could only be the strawberries making this so.
In those times, humans and animals could speak to one another.
She talked with her friends muskrat and frog about what was happening
to her hair. Frog was not alarmed, but muskrat was concerned and
told her she should stop eating so many berries. He thought her
hair color would make it too easy for those who wished her harm
to find her, or worse, her secret picking places. From that day
on, she never ate another wild strawberry, but she always wanted
to. One day she was foraging near one of her old secret wild strawberry
places and saw a handsome young red-haired man in the middle of
the patch. He waved to her. They saw each other again, many times
and fell in love. He told her his hair had once been long and nearly
black but he loved wild strawberries so much he couldnt stop
eating them. She told him of her talk with frog and muskrat and
why she stopped eating her beloved wild berries. He said if she
would marry him he would protect her and she could eat all the berries
she wanted; he would love her whether her hair was black or red.
They married and had many children and grandchildren. So every time
you see people with strawberry red hair, think of Lenonah, her husband
and their happy life near a strawberry patch.
Strawberry Leaf Tea
Pick leaves from the strawberry plant late in the
summer. Put them on paper towels on a screen and dry in the sun
or a 125-degree oven overnight. When thoroughly dry, crumble the
leaves and put in a clean airtight container.
My own grandmother swore they would cure anything, especially
a cold. They contain a lot of vitamin C, so she may have been right.
The tea likes to be sweetened with honey. The Wampanoag word for
strawberry leaves is wuttahimnasippa-quash.
Strawberry Bread Pudding
This is a VERY rich dessert and wonderful for special
occasions as a memorable treat. First is the pudding recipe; the
sauce recipe follows.
1 cup sugar
½ cup honey
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
6 cups day old bread, cubed
2 cups strawberries, hulled
1 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks
¼ cup real maple syrup
Bring sauce ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan over medium
heat. Stir constantly. Remove from heat, put pan in a larger pan
of ice water to cool.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Use a large bowl to mix eggs, sugar,
honey, spices, salt and cream. Fold in the bread and let it set
for 15 minutes. Pour this into a greased 9X13-inch cake pan and
gently fold in the strawberries. Cover with foil. Bake 45-50 minutes.
Let cool. Serve the sauce on the side or pour over individual servings.
Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: New Native
American Cooking, Native New England Cooking and A Dreamcatcher
Book. She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques
for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with
her husband in Madison, Connecticut.