Wild alpine strawberries are a perfect demonstration of selective plant breeding. While it’s hard to see how a wild grass turned into a modern corn plant, strawberries are different. Looking at an alpine strawberry, with a little imagination you can envision the gigantic strawberries of today.
Modern supermarket strawberries are more or less a testament to progress. So why would you want to bother with finding wild strawberries?
The truth is until you’ve tasted a wild strawberry, you’ve never really experienced all that a strawberry can be. What these little beauties lack in size, they make up for in flavor.
Our ancestors propagated wild strawberries, selecting for durability, size, and shelf life. Practically speaking, the flavor had to take a back seat to yield. Durability is key, as a modern strawberry can be kept and shipped across the country to feed urban populations. Wild alpine strawberries are almost always bruised during picking and rarely last more than 24 hours.
The only way to truly enjoy a wild alpine strawberry is to either forage it in the wild or cultivate it in your garden.
Growing Alpine Strawberry Plants
If you find a particularly tasty alpine strawberry, that ideally also has larger than average berries, that’s the perfect plant to transplant back home. Alpine Strawberry Plants have very shallow and durable root systems. They naturally propagate by runners, and a single plant can easily self-propagate into many plants in the course of a year.
If you don’t have access to wild lands to gather alpine strawberry plants, they can also be started from seed at home. Alpine strawberry seeds are easy to grow, and once you get your own patch started they’ll self-propagate forever.
That’s the nice thing about a “wild” crop. It knows how to take care of itself. Ours grow right up on the lawn along woods edges and shady places. Anywhere they can get a foothold, they thrive.
Though all of the wild strawberry plants I’ve found on our land produce red berries, there are heirloom varieties that produce very different fruit. Seeds saved for generations that produce unique plants. One such variety is called Heirloom Pineapple and produces 1 inch long yellow fruits that taste like a cross between a pineapple and a rose blossom.
Another variety called “White Soul” produces snow white fruit. This one, in particular, might get confusing, as you’ll never quite know when to harvest. If you’re growing white strawberry varieties they’ll make for a dramatic presentation on your table, but make sure you keep them in containers without regular red plants present.
Alpine strawberries are good choices for rocky outcroppings, assuming you have enough rain in your location to support them. Some of our best crops come right out of rock walls and rocky embankments where they’re able to outcompete the grass.
They also prefer moist soils, making them a perfect candidate for slightly soggy portions of lawn that are otherwise short grass and moss.
Foraging Alpine Strawberries
If you are near wild areas, or at least a decent walking path near the woods, alpine strawberries should be easy to find. They prefer woods edges, where they’re able to get partial sunlight. Rocky areas or locations with shallow soils are also great places to find wild strawberries. They have very shallow root systems, so they can thrive where deep-rooted perennial grasses cannot.
Wild strawberries (Fragaria vesca) are known by the names Woodland Strawberry and Alpine Strawberry. That gives you a few hints on where to find them. Higher elevations and wooded locations are a good start. While they cant grow in dense woods, clearings, edges, tree falls and anywhere with a bit of sun streaming in can be just enough.