Strawberry Blite, also known as Strawberry Spinach, Beetberry, Strawberry Goosefoot, and Indian Ink, is an annual plant growing to about 8″ tall, with soft, edible leaves and attractive red berries. Young leaves are eaten cooked or raw and are commonly used in salads or as a potherb. The bright red berries grow along the stem, resembling strawberries only in color, and are eaten in salads or used for dye. Roots are also edible either cooked or raw. This plant grows wild in many parts of the northern US and Canada and will easily reseed itself. This is a tasty and unusual alternative to your grocery store berries that will make your next dinner party dessert a hit!
Seed Depth: 1/8–1/4″
Space Between Plants: 6–15″
Space Between Rows: 12–18″
Germination Soil Temperature: 45–80°F
Days for Germination: 2–15
Sow Indoors: 3–4 weeks before average last frost date. For fall crop, 12–14 weeks before average first frost date.
Sow Outdoors: 2–3 weeks before average last frost date. For fall crop, 8–10 weeks before average first frost date.
Grows best in cool weather. It is an annual plant, native to North America, and grows wild in northern areas of the US and Canada. If you live in an area with a mild winter or warm summers, it is best to plant Strawberry Blite in the fall for a longer harvest season and to avoid bolting.
Natural: Full Sun. Will tolerate partial shade.
Artificial: Grows well under full spectrum artificial lamps.
Soil: Prefers a well-drained sandy, loamy, or clay soil high in organic matter. A pH of between 6.0 and 7.5 will keep plants healthy and nourished.
Water: Requires a moderate levels of water. Because they are fast-growing, plants prefer a consistently moist soil. Once established, their deep taproot provides drought resistance; however, more water will result in higher yields.
Nutrients: Requires moderate to high levels of nutrients. For fast leafy growth, soils need to be fertile and rich in nitrogen. Plants will also benefit from potassium and phosphorus applications. If you have poorer quality soil, fertilize with compost tea or liquid kelp feedings every 2–3 weeks.
Pruning: If you plant seeds closer than the recommended spacing, you can thin seedlings to desired final spacing and eat the young greens that you thinned. Strawberry Blite will reseed itself easily, so deadhead plants before seeds are dropped if you do not want volunteer seedlings coming up in your garden.
Deficiency(s): A nitrogen deficiency will result in slow growth.
Companions: Grows well with most other garden plants.
Harvest: Cut leaves when they are big enough but still young and tender. Leaves can be cut as needed, and the plant will continue to produce new leaves for the entire season.
Pick the fruit of Strawberry Blite when it is dark red and fully mature. For spring plantings, they will be ready in late summer or early fall. If you are growing a fall crop in an area with a mild winter, fruits will ripen in early to late spring.
When plants have matured, pull up the entire plant to harvest the edible taproot.
Storage: Fresh leaves can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for several days. Do not wash until just before consumption. Berries are also short-lived and should be consumed or prepared quickly after harvest.
Fun Fact: Because of its abundance and vibrant color, Native Americans used the berries from this plant as a natural dye for both their skin and fabrics.
Preserve: Leaves can be blanched and frozen for later use. Berries can be canned as preserves, jam, or juice.
Prepare: Young leaves are most often eaten raw as a tasty addition to a salad. Young shoots and leaves can also be steamed. Older leaves are best cooked and eaten as a potherb. Leaves have a slightly nutty flavor.
The red berries are sweet and are said to resemble mulberries in taste. Berries are eaten raw, added to salads, or canned as preserves. Try substituting Strawberry Blite berries in strawberry, raspberry, or blackberry dessert recipes.
The flavor of the root has been described as similar to parsnip with a hint of beet. Can be used in a soup or stew or eaten raw.
Nutritional: Leaves are low in calories and a good source of vitamin(s) C, A, E, and B. They also contain calcium, iron, magnesium, and various phytochemicals.
Medicinal: Phytochemicals found in Strawberry Blite include lutein, currently being studied for its ability to prevent macular degeneration. The leaves also contain antioxidants which may have cancer fighting properties. Traditionally, the plant has been used to treat black eyes and other bruising as well as lung congestion. It may also be useful in regulating blood sugar levels.
Warnings:Seeds and leaves contain oxalic acid and saponins and should be consumed in moderate amounts. Cooking the leaves will remove or reduce quantities of oxalic acid and saponins. Avoid consuming large amounts if you have a history of rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones, or hyperacidity.
Instead of using the same old spinach for your next sautéed side-dish, try substituting in Strawberry Blite to tease your taste buds.