White Alpine Strawberries In The Garden and Kitchen
February is the month for strawberries, at least here in the South, but also thanks to a global food market, just about anywhere else. February also brings dreams and gifts of chocolate covered strawberries. Strawberries are often said to be America's favorite fruit, which is interesting, because technically they aren't a fruit. Unlike true fruit, their seeds grow on the outside, whereas real strawberry fruit's seeds, are always on the inside. Old timers called them the "inside out fruit."
Ask any child or adult to draw or color a strawberry and you'll get the stereotype "red" strawberry. They will never think of the "other strawberry" - the "white" or sometimes called "golden" variety of strawberries. White strawberries are not some new variety. In fact, throughout history, white strawberries have been depicted in art.
Our Victorian great grandmothers certainly knew about them. Several of our early Presidents were great aficionados of these delicate strawberries. Thomas Jefferson experimented with White Alpine Strawberries in his gardens.
These tiny strawberries are more commonly known as the Alpine Strawberry. The scientific name is Fragaria vesca. Other names for them are: fraises des bois and the woodland strawberry. Not only do they look different, but the difference in taste is amazing. Once you've tasted one, you'll never forget the difference between that and it's red strawberry cousins.
Furthermore, they have a distinctive aroma. They are of course, a wild type of strawberry that was bred in 18th century Europe, by crossing the American wild strawberry with a wild Chilean one
White Alpine Strawberry Attributes and Considerations:
- These strawberries can and should be grown by seed.
- Unlike most strawberry plants, they do not send out runners.
- They are as easy to grow as regular strawberries.
- If purchased as plants, these strawberries can initially be a little more expensive. However, take heart - they are hardy perennials that will thrive for years.
- Unlike most strawberry varieties, they will tolerate shade.
- These strawberries make a nice ornamental landscaping touch to any walkway, herb garden, or flower bed.
- This type of strawberry makes nice ground-covers.
- The White Alpine Strawberry are a "must have" ingredient for any gourmet cook.
- Individuals who are allergic to red strawberries, sometimes do not have any problem with white or golden strawberries. The recommended variety of allergen free white strawberry is the "Sofar."
- White Alpine Strawberries are ever bearing plants.
- Their strawberry variety taste could be described as having a slight pineapple flavor and a stronger strawberry flavor.
- They will cross pollinate with red strawberries and revert to red if allowed.
- Do not pick White Alpine strawberries until fully ripe.
- These strawberries are a hardy, small strawberry.
- This variety of strawberry enjoys an acidic soil.
- This variety of strawberry does not do well in humid weather.
- White Alpine strawberries are a source of natural bleach that some have used to whiten teeth.
- These strawberries are a folk remedy for bleaching out sun spots.
- This variety of strawberry is a folk remedy for treating gastritis and other ailments, especially stomach upsets.
- White Alpine strawberry leaves are a folk remedy for making an anti-diarrhea tea.
- As with any variety of strawberry, they are a good source of Vitamin C.
Propagation - Key to Patience
As stated above, White Alpine strawberries are not propagated by sending out runners. Since in the wild, they reseed themselves, and if you live in a colder climate that gets at least some freezes -- all that is required is to leave some of the fruits on the plants. However, if you live in a warmer climate, you can save the seeds, and simply freeze them for about six weeks.
Remember too, that the seeds are very slow to germinate, it make take almost three weeks before you see your first glimmer of germination. It might take a month before you truly know how successful your efforts are. These are incredibly small seeds. One technique that I use is the "jello" seed technique, as it seems to net me more strawberry plants. (See sidebar).
It's also important to remember that the first year, you will get a disappointing number of berries. Don't take that to heart, it's the second year berries that you'll be celebrating over. Once your strawberries are established you can use a second common method of propagation -- that of dividing up the rooted strawberry plants into sections, and replanting them.
When your seedlings come up they will be cute little folded-umbrella like leaves. In your first season of growing White Alpine strawberries, thin your germinating seeds out to about the healthiest looking ones, spacing them about three inches apart. Then, when you are ready to transplant them, put them first into individual pots for about six weeks before you intend to permanently plant them.
Some growing aficionados of this strawberry like to nab the little buds and discard them the first year -- this ensures that the plants concentrate on growing, rather than fruiting. Wait for the flowers to come out a second time, which will only be another month or so. The dainty little flowers are white with yellow centers -- the centers are what will become your strawberries.
The berries are ripe when the seeds turn brown and the berries have developed a sweet aroma. Another key to their ripeness is that ripe berries will easily detach from the stem, unripe berries will be a little more stubborn. If you want more fruit, you must harvest the ripened berries as the season goes along, in order for this perennial plant to continue putting out more berries.
The Controversy Over White Alpine Strawberry Attractiveness
There are many who will go on and on about how these delicious berries are not attractive to birds. Well, maybe, maybe not when it comes to birds. However, anyone who lives in a more rural atmosphere will know that they are just as delicious to other kinds of wildlife, as they are to us humans. That shouldn't deter you from planting them, just know
Jell-o Seeding Technique for Tiny Strawberry Seeds
It's always tricky to deal with tiny seeds, like tomato, celery, and strawberry seeds. They can also be slow to germinate. One technique that is commonly used in reseeding bare spots in lawns, also works with tiny strawberry seeds. Jell-0 can come to your rescue, if you are the sort who is sort on patience, have low vision, or poor soil!
Directions for seed
germination jello seed starter:
- Mix one package of jello with cool (not cold or hot) water by gradually adding water to the mix until it's more of a sauce-like consistency (6 oz. package).
- It does not matter what flavor.
- Add two tablespoons of strawberry seeds to the mixture and stir thoroughly
- Pour mixture into a zip lock baggie (you can also use a cake icing decorating bag)
- If using the zip lock bag, cut a small 1/4" diagonal slot in one of the bottom corners
- Squeeze and release the mixture from your bag into the your germination bed or pan
- Apply in even rows allowing for run off, so about 1/2" to 1" apart
Why does it work? First, the jello will keep the seeds from being started too close together, and from being started too deep or too shallow. Next, the gelatin speeds up germination. Finally, the gelatin feeds the strawberry seeds and soil.
White Alpine Strawberries - Cajun Style
Medicinal Uses of the White Alpine Strawberry
Cajun faith healers often employed the use of the White Alpine strawberry in their folk medicines. No doubt these practices and ideas sprang from their Acadian ancestors, as it is reported that the French in the 13th century were using wild white strawberries for herbal remedies relating to digestion. For Cajun traiteurs and traiteuse healers, the roots, leaves, and fruits of these strawberries had several uses. Common uses were:
- Digestive aids
- Skin potions
- Whiten Teeth
White Alpine Strawberry Ice Cream Compote
- 2 tablespoons natural brown sugar
- 1/3 teaspoon powdered pectin
- 2/3 cup white alpine strawberries (pureed)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3/8 cup of fresh white alpine strawberries, hulled and finely diced
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 scoop French Vanilla Bean ice cream
- Thoroughly mix natural brown sugar, powdered pectin, pureed strawberries, cinnamon, and lemon juice in pan and simmer, stirring constantly
- Set aside to cool slightly
- Place 2 scoops ice cream in serving dish
- Add hulled and diced strawberries
- Pour cooled mixture over everything
- Serve immediately