Thoreau tells us that the Native Americans of the eastern woodlands called the strawberry oteagh-minick. The Cree referred to it as oteimeena, while the Chippewa named it o-da-e-min. All are variants of the same word, which describe this red fruit as that resembling the heart.
“Let us not call it by the mean name of ‘strawberry’ any longer,” he writes in Wild Fruits. “[B]etter call it by the Indian name of heart-berry, for it is indeed a crimson heart which we eat at the beginning of summer to make us brave for all the rest of the year, as Nature is.”
I was pleased to learn the results of a recent study of the strawberry and its nutritional benefits. This common red berry — the first wild fruit of spring — carries substances which stimulate the production of NrF2, a protein which protects the human heart by bolstering antioxidants and helping to lower blood lipids and cholesterol.
The latest research on the heart-berry hearkens back to the Doctrine of Signatures, a 19th century idea that the shape of a plant determined its medicinal properties. For example, the tri-lobed leaf of hepatica (Hepatica nobilis) was said to be useful in treating ailments of the liver.
Now it appears as though the heart-berry might indeed be good for the human heart.