Wild (about wild) Strawberries
Over the years, we’ve grown at least a dozen kinds of strawberries, mostly standard garden varieties (Fragaria x ananassa) like Sparkle and Tristar, and so-called “wild” strawberries, aka fraises de bois and alpine strawberries (F. vesca), like these Mignonettes being used as an edging in the lower garden.
Cultivated strawberries are easy to grow, almost always tasty and sometimes very tasty. But none of them – yet; I keep trying – are as good as genuinely wild strawberries (F. virginiana), the intensely flavorful, amazingly aromatic gift that grows freely in woodland edges all over the northeast and beyond.
Unfortunately, as many before me have discovered, you can bring the strawberry into the garden but you can’t bring the garden into the strawberry.
Horticultural reason suggests that selecting the plants that bear the largest quantity of the largest fruit and giving them good soil, adequate water and filtered sunshine ought to lead, gradually, to better crops than could be gathered on any summer visit to a good picking spot.
It doesn’t, no matter how many times you try. In this frustrating bit of poetic justice F. virgiania is completely democratic – anyone who bothers to pick them gets the same splendid reward: the very best strawberry in existence, in ( nothing is completely free) the very smallest package.
Clockwise from top: local garden strawberry from u-pick operation, variety unknown; true wild strawberry, from up the road; Mignonette, from the garden; Pineapple, a “white” alpine (supposedly less attractive to birds) that has gone wild in the side yard; and one of the u-pick strawberries standing in for the size of a Tristar because right now our chipmunk-in-Tristar- patch problem has reached crisis proportions.
More on Alpines: my relationship with alpines and the rarer but also much praised hautbois is one of those love/hate deals. On the plus side, they’re falling-down-easy to grow, long lived and pretty… and you get all kinds of gourmet points for having them. On the down side they take forever to pick while being far less wonderful than you’d think from all the hoopla. At least that’s how they strike me. For the opposing viewpoint – and a very large selection of seeds and plants – check out Alpine Strawberries.