The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Starting alpine strawberries from seed

Seed-starting flatDespite swearing up and down that I wasn't going to start any seeds indoors this year, I filled a flat with stump dirt Monday and sprinkled in tiny alpine strawberry seeds.  I tossed a few in the ground outdoors, too, as a control since I believe that plants people baby indoors often do just as well when planted straight in the garden.

I'm excited to add alpine strawberries to our current repertoire of June-bearing and everbearing strawberries.  I've read that alpine strawberries can cope with partial shade and make a good addition to the herb layer of forest gardens.  Plus, the fruits are reputed to have the best flavor of all strawberries, even though they're so tiny that you probably don't want to pick too many.  Best of all, alpine strawberries can be started from seed as long as you do so indoors, which eliminates the high startup costs of traditional strawberries.
Alpine strawberry fruit
This is our second shot at starting strawberries from seed.  We grew some our first year on the farm, planting the seeds in the middle of January and eating fruits by summer.  Yields were good but, unfortunately, the variety we grew (fresca) was some sort of odd hybrid with full-sized berries that were quite tasteless.

In case you're a botany geek like me, you might be interested to know that the various types of strawberries are in different species.  The big June-bearing strawberries are Fragaria x ananassa, which is a hybrid between the eastern North American native Fragaria virginiana (which grows wild in our woods) and the large-fruited, South American Fragaria chiloensis.  Alpine strawberries were bred from Fragaria vesca, a native strawberry to parts of North America, Europe, and Asia.  Although we don't hear much about Alpine strawberries, they have been eaten since the Stone Age and literal tons are still picked commercially each year in Turkey.  I look forward to picking our own this summer!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Neat photo, I have to say though that the tiny berries look a lot more like indian strawberry.
Comment by Anonymous Tue Jan 26 10:34:26 2010
When I was a young child, I used to pick what my grandmother called "wild strawberries" from along the creek near her house. They were tiny with intense flavor. On one side of the creek they were red, the other white, when ripe. You've solved the mystery for me of what they were, though I've never heard mention of white ones.
Comment by Errol Tue Jan 26 10:48:25 2010

Anonymous --- I agree that they look like Indian Strawberry fruits. But the flowers are white, not yellow, and I hear the fruits are much, much tastier.

Daddy --- sunlight is often important for fruit coloration --- I've seen a trick where you take a piece of scotch tape and write your name on it with an indelible marker and put the tape on an apple when it's full size but green. When the apple has turned red, take off the tape and your name will be there in green --- without sun, it didn't change color. I can't help but wonder whether your half white strawberries just didn't get enough light in the shade and thus stayed white. That said, I've read that there are a few varieties of alpine strawberries that stay white.

Comment by anna Tue Jan 26 13:29:16 2010
This creek (a run, actually) was smaller than the one you grew up with. Same sunlight. Pasture on both sides.
Comment by Errol Tue Jan 26 16:35:31 2010
Drat --- that knocks my hypothesis right out the window! :-)
Comment by anna Tue Jan 26 18:32:40 2010

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