Alpine Strawberries (Fragaria vesca)

Alpine strawberries are cultivated strains of wild or woodland strawberries found across Europe and have been used in gardens for hundreds of years. We have two types of Alpine Strawberries available – Red and White. These plants are very well behaved perennials that are clump forming, they don’t produce runners but the clumps increase in size and new plants are formed through division of clumps. They also can be grown from seed although many authorities say that in general Alpine Strawberries have a  reputation for being difficult to cultivate from seed. I haven’t deliberately tried to grow them from seed but have found that they self seed readily and have them happily appearing in interesting places around my garden.

Alpine strawberries are not sent out at the same time as the other strawberries (which are sent out with the garlic and onion collection in April / May). The alpine strawberry clumps are best divided in the winter so they are sent out in the Spring as part of the Artichokes, Yacon, Yams back order category.

Alpine strawberries produce smaller fruit than the ‘garden’ type strawberries I mentioned earlier although they flower and produce fruit over a longer period. Its definitely Autumn and actually quite cold as I write this but fruit are still forming although in smaller amounts than earlier in the summer and they tend to take longer to ripen.

The fruit of both the Red and White forms are very sweet and delicious with an intense flavour. The white ones tend to be larger than the red ones and have a hint of pineapple taste, hence their name ‘White Pineapple’. Of course the white ones have the added novelty of their colour. Somehow strawberries are ‘meant’ to be red so the intensity of the strawberry flavour is a surprise the first time they are eaten.

Alpine strawberries are steady rather than heavy producers which make great additions to fruit salads or other desserts over a long period. They are great with yoghurt for breakfast and we often also sprinkle a few into our green salad at lunch time. In honesty though its often difficult to get them as far as the kitchen as its tempting to enjoy them in the garden fresh off the plant and if there are children around there will definitely be competition as they seem to love eating them.

Like all strawberries they are hungry feeders and benefit from compost or well aged manure. They are small, attractive plants that are fantastic on the edges of beds, along paths or in a forest garden situation but which can also easily be grown in large pots or planter boxes. As they clump they form quite good ground cover and I find up here in the Far North that they prefer being in the semi shade in the heat of summer, after all they are woodland plants. How much shade they require will vary from region to region but they require enough sun for the fruits to ripen but some shade to keep the plants healthy. They don’t tolerate drought well so need moisture retentive but free draining soil to produce well.

I noticed in Martin Crawford’s book “How to grow Perennial Vegetables” that the leaves are edible. He recommends using the leaves raw in salads or cooked in soups or stews. I’ve tried them in salad and they were okay, nothing startling but nice enough to eat especially when young. Mostly though I’ll keep growing them for their beautiful and delicious fruits.