Fragaria vesca* and the mystery of the Moon

This terrific photo of the Strawberry Moon over Lake Superior was taken by Grant Johnson in 2016. You can check out this image and his other works at Grant Johnson Photography on Facebook.

Although it won’t be full until next week, the Moon will put on a dramatic show at the end of this week, rising just as the Sun is setting, while making its way to its fourth and final Full phase of the Spring.

The June Full Moon is known as the Strawberry Moon, because this is the season when the woodland strawberries start to ripen.

Strawberries are an ancient fruit and were singled out in Ovid’s “Metamorphosis” when he described what the Greeks called the golden age of humanity, the first of the great ages when there was no need of armed men and human beings lived in harmony with the gods and all that had been created.

Centuries passed before garden strawberries were first bred, in France in the 1750s, and today, international strawberry cultivation exceeds nine million tons per year, though not all of those strawberries ripen under the Strawberry Moon.

So as you wait on the delicious strawberry harvest, follow the Moon this week, a waxing gibbous as it rises later and later each the day, until it rivals the Sun Saturday evening, June 15th, rising in the east at 7:52 pm edt, about an hour and a half before the Sun sets in the west at 9:30 pm. It may look reddish while its on the horizon, if we’re lucky (this is a consequence of our own atmosphere)!

You can also join me for a beautiful evening sky cruise Saturday night, enhanced by the Strawberry moonlight over the Straits of Mackinac, where we cruise to the stories of the stars, sway to the music, and marvel at the elegance of the Mackinac Bridge draped in stars. Go to Shepler’s Ferry to get your tickets.

Terrifically tantalizing strawberries by artist Wendy Artin

And check out Andrew Lang’s fairy tale of “The Three Dwarfs”, which offers up a wicked stepmother, her ugly daughter, a virtuous maiden, and a king. See, while the father isn’t paying attention, his daughter is sent by her stepmother into the wild to fetch a basket of strawberries, though the ground is covered with snow. She happens upon the hut of three dwarfs and proves so resourceful to them that they grant her great beauty, a happy marriage, and gold.  Oh, and the strawberries! She fulfills her step-mother’s task by finding the strawberries, which also secures her happily ever after.

~Mary Stewart Adams, Star Lore Historian

*Fragaria vesca refers specifically to woodland, or wild strawberries.

Strawberries that in gardens grow 
Are plump and juicy fine, 
But sweeter far as wise men know 
Spring from the woodland vine. 
No need for bowl or silver spoon, 
Sugar or spice or cream,
Has the wild berry plucked in June
Beside the trickling stream.
One such to melt at the tongue’s root,
Confounding taste with scent,
Beats a full peck of garden fruit:
Which points my argument.
~Robert Graves