This is not the first time I've blogged about Alpine Strawberries and it probably won't be the last. They are the little berry that could. That certain "je ne sais quoi" in your cereal. A little sumpin' sumpin' for your Cheerios.
And so much more.
Otherwise known as Fragaria vesca, woodland strawberry or fraises des bois (frays-day-bwah), the Alpine Strawberry was first transplanted from the wild in Europe and into domestic gardens centuries ago.
Thomas Jefferson brought these plants in his baggage on the ship back from France in 1789 and later wrote to James Monroe that the Alpine strawberry was "one of three objects you should endeavor to enrich our country with". I don't know about the other two objects. But you get his drift.
These are not strawberries destined for the jam jar. They are small and delicate fruits that you cup gently in your hand or balance in your berry basket as you pick. They are prolific but not meant for massive yields like conventional strawberries. As Jefferson also wrote "it would take acres to yield a dish". There he sounds a bit cynical, and overstates their tiny aspect.
Although once they start producing, you can find enough of berries to include them in tarts, salads, baked goods and such.
I err on the side of abundance when I grow these easy little plants. I started them from seed when I used them for edible edging in my Kansas kitchen garden. I loved combining them with the dark fruits of our mulberry trees on top of lemon cheese tarts back then as well.
Their exotic perfumed taste is not as acidic as a regular strawberry keep in mind. They are most delectable showcased where you can appreciate them for their ephemeral nature. Or just eat them every time you pass by the plant like I do.
The 18" wide and 12' tall mounded plants have fresh green foliage and dainty flowers similar to regular berries. Here in Minnesota I dot them among perennials in my courtyard beds. Because they are runnerless, the landscaping possibilities are numerous. They have few pests and require just average water and a bit of fertilizer. They are easily divided to make more plants as they get fuller.
One word of caution: There are numerous cultivars available with all shades of delicious nuance in their flavor profile. There are even white ones with deep flavor. Be sure though, that whatever type you try, the berries are the small but long conical shape.
Unnamed varieties with small round berries are completely flavorless and produce runners, pretty useless plants. Make sure you see or ask about the berry shape and origin before mail ordering plants. As they become better known more local sources show up.
Starting them from seed is not difficult but advanced, the seeds need prechilling in some instances, I remember starting mine in a flat outdoors in spring where they received the fluctuating temps that help some seeds to germinate. You should consult individual seed packet instructions. They are worth the effort.
Alpine strawberries can tolerate a little shade and also make great container plants.
Mine are self seeding this year with all the extra rain. I'll be nursing them along and then transplanting to good locations, increasing my quantities this way. I may not get an acre, but I'll have plenty of berries, Mr. Jefferson. Thanks for endeavoring to stow them in your luggage!