The tasty little strawberries from the Alpine strawberry plant, also known as wild strawberry, grow in Europe, Asia, North America and Chile. The small berries tend to be highly flavorful with an exquisite aroma not found in cultivated strawberries. While the name seems to imply that the plants only grow in mountainous areas, alpine strawberries actually grow in almost any climate as long as the plants receive protection from hot, dry weather. Gardeners in cold climates enjoy the fruits by using the plants as annuals grown in containers.
A compact perennial, the alpine strawberry plant only grows to 10 inches in height, although it spread to 12 inches in width. The leaves sport three coarse, toothy leaflets. In late spring, the first white five-petaled flowers appear on separate stalks than the leaves. The flowers are followed by small white fruits that mature a few weeks later into either red or white edible berries.
Planting and Care
Alpine strawberries prefer slightly acidic soil in a sunny or partially shady, protected spot. They also require regular watering. While the plants thrive in mild climates, they produce very little fruit in hot, dry areas or in humid climates. To encourage the plants to produce fruit all summer, weeds need to be removed around the plants. A layer of mulch helps retain moisture. Once the fruit sets, netting may be needed to keep birds away from the ripe berries.
Harvest and Reproduction
Alpine strawberries mature into either red berries or white berries with brown seeds. Both varieties offer a fragrance and delicate flavor unlike larger, cultivated versions. An everbearing plant, alpine strawberry produces fruit all summer. The fruits may be picked as soon as the berries mature. Since the plants do not put out runners, they reproduce from seeds falling to the ground.
A paste made from crushed alpine strawberries and baking soda helps remove stains from and whiten teeth. Leaves from the alpine strawberry plant contain large amounts of vitamin C; adding them to herbal teas for flavor makes them more palatable. Juice from the fruits also gets used to lighten or bleach age or liver spots on the skin.
Fresh or Cooked
Alpine strawberries taste wonderful right off the plants as long as they're ripe. The little berries also work well in jams, jellies and preserves. The berries taste wonderful in any recipe in which cultivated strawberries are required, including syrups and sauces for pancakes or waffles, shortcakes and in ice cream or yogurt.