Wild Strawberries-Cultivated

This is a story worth telling, one with a happy ending.

It begins with our love, lust, passion for strawberries. This is a crop that does very well in our area. Stands along the roadsides have tables set up filled with plastic baskets of large, juicy, sweet red fruits. Pickup trucks in shopping center parking lots have their beds filled with boxes of the berries. There are several pick your own places out in the county. All of these are selling a mighty fine product. But there is nothing like the freshest of the fresh, warmed by the sun, juice running down your chin bite into the sweetness of fruit grown in your own garden. It is the most local of local, and don’t forget, Local Is The New Black.

May 17, 2009 053 (2)
When the veggie bed between the Arborvitae and Chamaecyparis hedges was built, the first crop planted was strawberries, six plants. The first year there were many berries eaten, by human and critter. The next year the plants had formed many runners, growing right on top of the landscape fabric lining the pathways. It was assumed that there would be plenty of berries for human and four leggeds once again. But it was not to be. Despite many flowers and fruits turning to the perfect stage of eating red, the rabbits, or turtles or whatever would devour the berries on the day I was going to pick them.

A new strategy was needed, for both the out of control runners and the critters not sharing as they should with the gardener. The taste of wild strawberries is legendary, the stuff of fairy tales where the young girls are required to find wild strawberries in winter. This fruit is said to be the sweetest taste on Earth. We have wild strawberries here at the Fairegarden. We are awash in them, but upon tasting, well let us just say they were what we like to call spitters. Blechhhh. The legends must be about a different species than the plant that grows here with abandon.

Moving ever onward, in the winter of 2009/2010, while perusing the lovely, high quality paper and photos seed catalog of Baker Creek, there were on offer seeds of wild alpine strawberries, Fragaria vesca ‘Red Wonder’. (Click here to read the tempting description.) These were added to the seed order immediately. The seeds arrived, the packet studied and more germination research was done online to be sure and get it right. Two weeks in the fridge, the tiny seeds were then sprinkled on top of moist seed starting mix in a four inch pot, then topped with a light dressing of fine sand. Germination was good and resulted in a small pot of baby strawberry plants. These were grown on in the greenhouse until the weather permitted planting outside in the veggie bed. The plants were tiny, but spaced six inches apart. An old palette went over them, then reinforcing wire on top of that. The little plants grew well, some even flowered that first year, but no berries were produced. (Above photo taken right after planting out, April 14, 2010.)

The tale has now arrived to spring 2011. A plastic rabbit fence has been erected around the Red Wonder plants, which do not produce runners, a huge selling point. They can be divided after a few years, the sources said. But before that happens, we must taste the product.

A few of the runner strawberry plants were brought inside this safe house as well, just to make sure there would be a few fruits for human consumption. These plants grow too fast to be kept in the small protected space without constantly dealing with the offsets, but the fruit is good tasting, if not the best ever. They are just for back up. If the Red Wonders live up to the hype, the end part of the veggie bed will be filled with divided plants for low maintenance deliciousness. (Note the red seeds.)

There even was a white fruited plant, Fragaria vesca ‘White Delight’ purchased from Annie’s Annuals, said to be safe from birds who peck the red fruits. (Click here to see that description.) Yet more research led to complaints by some that one could not tell when the berries were ripe, since color is the leading indicator of that status. Hmmmm. Perhaps size will let us know when to give them a taste.

Back to Red Wonder, several have been consumed. They are different from their larger kin, sweeter, yes. The elongated smaller fruits are almost like candy, the seeds offering a slight crunch. Greedily we search for the reddest ones, popping them right into our mouths as we crouch inside the narrow fenced space. There is not the juiciness of the runner types, but the textural sensation is pleasing, once our taste buds know what to expect. Yes to these. The plants will be divided and replanted in the wire covered end of the veggie bed for a permanent planting. I hereby give Fragaria vesca ‘Red Wonder’, the wild cultivated Strawberry my highest endorsement!


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26 Responses to Wild Strawberries-Cultivated

  1. Greggo says:

    yum, strawberry’s. My mother is addicted to the whole process and she lives in Wyoming. She always fights the birds and deer.

    My fondest memory is on a trip to Oregon to do some seed research for turfgrass species. Upon arrival at the growing fields the farmers also had strawberry fields. Large plump fruit. We were informed we could pick and eat as much as we want. We did. Awesome. Siesta time. Fond, fond memories.

    That is a sweet memory, Greggo! Eating right from the plant is the best way to consume these jewels. Good for your mother, fighting the good fight.

  2. gagarden says:

    Berry cute story and nice endorsement. A lot of work to keep and consume the berries. When berries were planted here, the first year they were human food, subsequent years ant food. No fence would help with that one and no beating the ants to the produce either.

    Thanks Donna. Man, I do hate ants, so sorry about that problem. The only solution would be to move the berry patch and hope the ants don’t find it.

  3. Carol says:

    I’ll have to keep these in mind. They sound delicious.

    They are really good, Carol, and don’t take up the space that the runner strawberries do, or need the constant replanting of the runners. Low maintenance.

  4. Nutty Gnome says:

    I like the sound of non-running strawberries!
    We have zillions of self-set voracious runners of the tiny, round Alpine strawberries. They are succulent, gorgeous and so sweet – but you need to pick lots of them for a decent mouthful! I spend lots of time pulling the runners up on our south-facing front terrace where it’s hot and dry and they can thrive! Sad I know, but I do want to have other plants on there too! 🙂

    Hi Liz, your alpines sound delicious, but that runner thing is a huge negative, as you say. We want to grow other things here as well. The critter problem was aggravating, all the work of replanting the runners, watching them grow and ripen, then having them harvested just as they reached perfection. This seems to solve those problems. Red Wonder is about half the size of the others, we may never have a whole bowl of them since they are eaten on the spot. I can’t pick and not eat.

  5. gail says:

    Dear Frances, I love a story with a good beginning, a great middle and a happy ending. Great illustrations also help. They sound yummy and I love their description and looks. xxoogail

    Thanks Gail. These are truly delish. Come visit and I will share.

  6. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I nearly took a bite out of my computer screen when that second picture popped up. Yummm Well worth the work.

    HA Lisa, you are too funny! Thanks for giving my a guffaw this morning!

  7. Great story. Happy ending. I’ve never tasted wild alpine strawberries. They do sound good though and such patience to get them through their infancy.~~Dee

    Thanks Dee. They are good and one of very few success stories of my seed starting endeavors.

  8. YUM! They all look mouth-watering. I rather like the white strawberries for being more unusual if nothing else. I can see the difficulty of not knowing when to harvest them. Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

    Thanks Karin. The white ones are attractive, ones would not even know they are strawberries!

  9. Carolyn says:

    They sure are sweet looking… love the red seeds. Do you make jam?

    Thanks Carolyn. I have never made jam, no. We don’t even get enough to bring into the house, so far. The berries are eaten in the garden, I really love them like that. We do the same with the raspberries.

  10. Layanee says:

    We are a month away from fresh strawberries here but you have made my mouth water for them. I do need to plant some.

    We love them, Layanee, and would buy them from the roadside if we didn’t grow them. Worth the wait!

  11. My Kids Mom says:

    Hmm, just purchased some strawberry plants started from someone else’s runners. I thought I’d put them along side my woodlands where all my grass has died anyway. They’ll make a good ground cover if nothing else! But I may put up a fight if I don’t get any berries to myself!

    Hi Jill, that sounds like a good place for them to spread out, but if you have rabbits, you might not get any yourself!

  12. Elizabeth McLeod says:

    This was a great story. I am left wondering if “Red Wonder” strawberries would grow up here in zone 6…..B.C. Canada?

    Have you tried dipping the berries in chocolate and then dusting them with berry sugar? That would be a decadent and delicious desert! Thanks for sharing this story…loved it.

    Thanks Elizabeth. Strawberries are quite hardy, aren’t they? Worth trying for the cost of a packet of seeds, anyway. I have had chocolate dipped strawberries before, as a certified chocoholic, but not with berry sugar. That sounds yummy!

  13. Marguerite says:

    Great story Frances. We have wild strawberries everywhere on our property and I thought last year that we would be awash in fruit. We found that not many fruits came to be and they were not tasty at all so this year I purchased plants and we hope to have luscious strawberries next season.

    Thanks Marguerite. If only our wild berries tasted as good as these cultivated ones, but alas, they are tasteless and worse. Good luck with your purchased plants, they should be great.

  14. Lola says:

    Those do look delish Frances. My berries are giving me a couple most every day now since I repotted them. The plants are several yrs old.They started out being the ggs’s. I still had enough to share the plants with them.
    As for the wild ones, nothing can compare to them for taste & oooohhhh the jam I made from the wild ones was out of this world. I do miss them a lot. They grew on the hillside at our place in N.C. I do have a gem now as a hitch hiker with some iris that a dear friend from N.C. sent me. I will treasure both.

    Thanks Lola. What a delightful story you have told, I am so glad you are enjoying those fruits.

  15. joey says:

    And now I want some too! Plus just read that wild berries have even more antioxidant power than cultivated. You are on to a good thing, dear Frances. Happy Mother’s Day 🙂

    Happy Mother’s Day to you Joey! Do give these wild cultivated berries a try, they are delicious, and more antioxidants are a happy bonus.

  16. We have wild strawberries here, but I’ve never tasted them because…..they’re in the middle of the big poison ivy patch 😦

    In general, though, I’ve been disappointed in the taste of most of our wild berries – waited a long time for blackberries last year, and they were just tasteless. I put sugar on them and they tasted like sugar.

    Yikes, Tangled, best get some Red Wonder seeds and start your own wild strawberries! Our wild blackberries are the same, full of seeds and tasteless. We do have raspberries, store bought, that are wonderful.

  17. Alistair says:

    Strawberries, lovely, white delight, what next. Mind you, we always say whatever is happening across the Atlantic finds its way here soon enough.

    Thanks Alistair. I don’t think these white strawberries are going to catch on, or be the next big thing, but you never know! My advice: don’t get them unless they are to grown for ornament only.

  18. Lola says:


    Thanks Lola. The same good wishes to you!

  19. I’ve wanted wild strawberries for a while now and this did not help. I definitely have to try them! Yesterday, a woman attending the urban farm tour told me that her trick for keeping her red strawberries is to paint strawberry-sized pebbles red and scatter them in the strawberry rows. She says once the birds and other critters “taste” them and discover they are hard, they leave the remaining season’s crop alone.

    Hi Eliza, thanks for visiting. That is the best tip I have ever heard, and will give it a try!

  20. I’m glad Red Wonder are sweet.

    We have those wild strawberries popping up over here. I think they look really decorative, they’re certainly tough, surviving dry shade.

    Thanks Rob. I agree, the wild running strawberries are attractive and will help cover bare ground, at the least. They are aggressive here, and do battle with the violets for the title of Emperor of Ground Covering.

  21. dowhatyoulove says:

    Mmmm! I would love to have a patch of strawberries! I am not sure it will happen this year, but I adore having fresh berries of all types through the summer months. There really is nothing better than that fresh juicy morsel!

    I hope you can get yourself a strawberry patch soon. We are really enjoying these, thanks to the fencing!

  22. AnneTanne says:

    The third picture, is that a strawberry too? Looks like Duchesnea indica (Potentilla indica) to me…

    I don’t know what it is, we just call it the wild strawberry. We do have Potentilla here as well, it has a much smaller leaf and smaller fruits. These are not tasty, whatever they are!

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  25. cynthia says:

    Bees eat my berrys in late summer, early fall. I get the late spring and early summer berrys for myself.
    Stupid bees, but it isnt like I am going to go out and argue with them over it!

  26. Texan says:

    While searching Baker Creeks store online I saw these. I decided to google up and see if I could get any other info. Stumbled onto you! Good info! I am going to add a pack to my order. See how they do here in Texas. I see your in Tennessee. We have been doing some research on there lately adding it to our considerations of where we might like to live.

    Hi Texan, thanks for stumbling in here! I did give the seeds a time in the fridge before putting them in the greenhouse. Good luck with yours. Tennessee is a fine place to live, especially the Southeast part, near the mountains.

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