Ok, so things in our little garden plot are a bit of a mess. Despite having a plan all drawn out, despite starting seeds early indoors, and despite all our best intentions and efforts, nothing seems to be planted where we’d planned, our early starts were devoured by slugs, we still don’t have all the compost & mulch we need (nor the stakes and trellises), the bindweed and the grasses are running rampant, and our little garden is still a mess.
And yet, despite everything, the garden still grows.
The summer squashes and pumpkins that survived multiple slug invasions are now spreading out and settling in, the sunflowers are soaring towards the sky, and the scraggly, unkempt roses keep coming with their blossoms. And I have to say, little by little, I have become quiet fond of our little mess of a garden, and–I daresay–it of us. Never does it seem to complain and cry for attention when at times we get lost in our own worlds, but rather welcomes us on our return with just the breath of fresh air that we need. The gatekeepers of our beloved mess are the wild strawberries that hug the pathway into the garden, brushing our feet as if to say “oh, hello again friend” and a gentle tickle on our way out, teasing us, knowing that it won’t be long until we’re back.
Wild strawberries are also sometimes called alpine strawberries, which might be a hint as to why this plant seems to be so overlooked here. They grow quiet freely throughout Switzerland, so freely in fact that Walderdbeeren, as they are known in German, are mostly considered a weed only of interest to small children. Though it could be argued that I’m a bit of a child myself, there are plenty of other reasons why I’m happy to have these guys in my garden: They’re the low-maintenance, uncomplicated, non-picky sort (totally our crowd), slugs don’t seem to be too interested in them (laugh if you will, but the losses we suffered this spring have made this high priority for us), they make a wonderful groundcover under our prickely-prackely rose bush- thriving in the rose’s acidic conditions yet being too shallow rooted to compete for nutrients, and are now rewarding our negligent weeding with tiny little red jewels.
These teeny-tiny mini-strawberries are technically our first “harvest” from the garden this year. They don’t have anywhere near the amount of flesh that commercial ones do (which is reason enough to grow the cultivated varieties too) but despite their size the Walderdbeeren are soooo much more fragrant and have a more complex taste that’s entirely their own. Mostly we enjoy the ripe berries freshly plucked and promptly popped in our mouths as a yummy little reward for working on our mess of a garden. But lately as its been consistently warmer (finally!) the wild strawberries have been flush with fruit, so I thought I would take this opportunity to make a little reward for us to take outside of the garden.
Since Michael started getting up at 5:30 to work mornings at the farm, a normal breakfast has been all but forgotten- if there’s any at all. I wanted to make something that we could grab and take with us, with enough energy for a fully loaded day. So I decided to make wild strawberry granola bars and load them up too, with whatever I could find in our pantry- shredded coconut, almonds, honey, maple syrup (self-made!) and dark chocolate. These power-packed breakfast-on-the-go/work-snack are the perfect little treat for us as we work on not just de-messing our garden, but de-messing our sometimes mess of a life.
- 2 cups oats
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped
- 1 cup wild strawberries, whole (or normal strawberries, cut into pieces)
- 5 tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup dark chocolate (chips, chunks, or chopped)
- Cover an 8x8-in baking dish with parchment paper or grease with butter, making sure to cover/grease the sides.
- Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- Melt the butter in a small or medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Stir in the brown sugar, honey, and maple syrup.
- As soon as the mixture boils, reduce the heat to low and let it cook 2 more minutes – stirring occasionally. It will become bubbly (nearly fluffy) in the pan.
- Take it off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
- Add the hot liquid to the bowl and mix until everything is moistened.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and press down with a spatula to make an even, compact layer. Let it cool for a couple of minutes.
- When still just slightly warm, sprinkle chocolate chips and any other toppings on top and lightly press them down into the oat mixture with a spatula.
- Let all this set for 2 hours. Remove it from the pan and then cut it into whatever size bars you prefer.
- Store the bars, covered in the freezer, or in an air-tight container.