Wild strawberry is one common name for Fragaria vesca, a type of strawberry that produces smaller, sweeter, more elongated berries than the hybrid garden strawberry. These fruits have been consumed by humans since the stone age! Also known as alpine strawberry, woodland strawberry, European strawberry, or fraise des bois, plants are perennial and grow wild in large areas of the northern hemisphere. Leaves and fruit are used to make herbal teas, jams and jellies, sauces, and desserts. They’re also delicious added raw to salads, cereal, or eaten on their own.
Alexandria is a day-neutral, everbearing alpine strawberry grown from seed. Unlike most strawberries, these plants rarely produce runners. Decorative, compact plants yield small (up to 1″ long), tasty, deep-red berries in their second year or sometimes in the fall of the first year if you can start seeds early enough. This type is a good choice for high altitude growing or partially shaded plots and also works well in containers if kept adequately moist.
Seed Depth: 1/8–1/4″
Space Between Plants: 18–20″
Space Between Rows: 24–36″
Germination Soil Temperature: 60–75°F
Days for Germination: 15–30
Sow Indoors: 12–16 weeks before last frost date.
Sow Outdoors: Not recommended.
Vegetative: Can be propagated by division or root cuttings. Plants will sometimes self-propagate by producing aboveground runners, but Alexandria seldom does.
Prefers cool, temperate climates, although they can continue to produce fruit through summer heat and into fall. They are generally a perennial in USDA Zones 5–8. Native to Europe, they’re adapted to moist alpine climates and need cool winters. Mature plants can survive winter frosts, but spring flowers need more protection. In warmer zones, it can be grown as a cool season annual.
Natural: Full sun. Prefers partial shade in warm weather and when young.
Artificial: Needs at least 14 hours of light per day.
Soil: Prefers well-drained loamy soil but are adaptable and will grow in most soils. A pH of between 5.8 and 6.5 will keep plants healthy and nourished.
Soilless: Seeds germinate best in a soilless mix.
Hydroponics: Will thrive in a variety of hydroponic systems. Try NFT or a media bed filled with clay pellets.
Aeroponics: Thrives in aeroponic systems.
Water: Requires moderate to high levels of water. Soil should be kept moist but take care not to overwater. Avoid getting plants’ leaves wet by using drip irrigation.
Nutrients: Requires high levels of nutrients, particularly phosphorus and potassium. Amend soil with plenty of compost before planting to provide organic matter. Feed established plants with liquid kelp every 2 weeks.
Foliar: Benefits from foliar feedings of liquid kelp or compost tea.
Pruning: Divide strawberry plants once every 3–4 years to keep plants from getting too crowded.
Deficiency(s): A potassium deficiency will result in darkening of the edges of older leaves, which will spread to areas between leaf veins and the leaf stem. Eventually leaves will die. An iron deficiency will result in yellowing between the veins of the leaves which can expand until entire leaves are almost white. A phosphorus deficiency will result in smaller, stunted plants with darker, dull green leaves.
Rotation: As a perennial, these strawberries will not be rotated with other crops. Avoid planting after potatoes or tomatoes.
Companions: Grows well with onions, lettuce, spinach, and bush beans. Avoid broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
Harvest: Pick berries once they are fully ripe and deep red. Check plants daily during the peak of the growing season. If left on the plant for too long, berries will start to rot and can attract pests, so remove overripe strawberries once you notice them.
Storage: Will keep well in the refrigerator for 3–5 days. They have a much shorter storage life than the type found on grocery store shelves. Freeze whole strawberries for up to 2 months.
Seed Saving: You can save seeds from this heirloom strawberry and plant them next year! Wait and harvest some of the berries when they are overripe, then mash them gently or pulse very briefly in a food processor or blender before pouring into a small mesh strainer. Rinse the pulp from the seeds in the strainer and allow them to air dry for a few days, stirring the seeds occasionally to make sure all the sides are exposed to the air. Keep seeds in an airtight container until the following spring.
Preserve: Can be preserved and canned whole. Jellies and jams are also often made with the fruit. They can also be dehydrated, either in thin slices or after pureeing and cooking them to make a fruit leather. Freeze your extra berries to throw in a smoothie or pie later.
Prepare: These strawberries are considered to be sweeter than most garden varieties and will tempt you to eat them all straight off the plant. If they do make it into your kitchen, try using them in a pie recipe, pureeing them into a syrup to top ice cream or cheesecake, or adding into a smoothie.
Nutritional: Provides vitamin C, manganese, folate, iron, potassium, and iodine. Also a good source of antioxidants and dietary fiber.
Medicinal: Strawberries have been used for treating anemia, diabetes, gout, heart disease, and kidney or liver diseases, and for lowering cholesterol. Strawberries are also said to improve the appearance and health of your teeth. They are a potent source of phytochemicals and antioxidants which provide anti-cancer properties. Historically, they have even been thought of as an aphrodisiac.
Strawberry leaves have medicinal uses as well. Usually made into a tea, it can be used for treating pains and intestinal or urinary issues, and has antibacterial, anti-fungal and diuretic properties. The leaf is known as a blood purifier and is used for treating night sweats, menstrual issues, and to support weight loss.
Warnings: Some people are allergic to a protein found in strawberries, so take care, especially for young children trying strawberries for the first time.
Pluck a few fresh wild strawberries and then make this Homemade Strawberry Almond Milk for a healthy dairy-free treat.