LAKE COUNTY — The fragrance of wild strawberries mingled with daisies and other wildflowers in the meadows of Northern Michigan is a joy of early summer. The tiny berries are a tasty treat from the earth for all to enjoy who stumble upon a wild strawberry patch or know where to look.

Wild strawberries can be identified by their five-petal small white flower as early as late April to mid-May, when field grass and flora is low to the earth. After the plants lose the flower, they form three leaves. By early June, green berries start to develop on a stem, gradually ripening to bright red berries ready for picking by mid-June.

The wild strawberry flourishes under full or partial sun, but is able to tolerate shade because it develops in the spring. They prefer rich soil and moist conditions and are able to grow in disturbed areas.

Because the berries are so small, it takes a lot of picking to gather a sizable amount. The berries can be enjoyed picked and eaten on site, while soaking in the sunshine and fresh air.

Wild strawberries also work well to accent foods, such as sweet breads, cereals and salads, blended into smoothies, or cooked into a sauce to pour on short cake or ice cream.

If enough are accumulated, the berries can be used for jams and preserves.

Laurie Miller, of Chase, makes a freezer jam out of strawberries, and reviewed the steps to make the sweet preserve.

“I mix five cups of crushed strawberries; seven cups of sugar; and four tablespoons of lemon Jello mix,” she explained. “I let the mixture set for 10 minutes. I cook one pack of Sure-Jell until it forms into a hard boil. I let it boil one minute, constantly stirring. After it boils, I pour it over the strawberry mixture and stir it well. I put it in jars or bowls and set it out 24 hours, and then freeze it.”

No matter how one prepares the berries, the fun is in finding the tasty morsels and enjoying a few while gathering them.