Alpine Strawberry (fragaria vesca)

Alpine strawberry, a member of the rose family, is native to Europe and Asia and is widely naturalized in northern temperate areas. Based on archeological evidence, it appears that people have been eating the plant’s fruits for at least 10,000 years — perhaps longer. Alpine strawberry was first cultivated in ancient Persia; from there, its seeds were carried and planted in many other areas. Compared to the modern cultivated strawberry, a hybrid, the everbearing alpine strawberry bears smaller, more aromatic fruits. The plants are low-growing, evergreen, and very hardy.

Alpine Strawberry

Plant profile

Common Names: Alpine Strawberry, Fraises Des Bois, Wild Strawberry, Woodland Strawberry

Description: Compact perennial, up to 10 inches tall; evergreen, coarsely toothed, tripartite leaves; flat, white flowers; small, cone-shaped white to red fruit studded with brown seeds

Hardiness: To Zone 4

Family: Rosaceae

Flowering: Spring and summer

Parts Used: Fruit, leaves, and roots

Range/Habitat: Native to Europe and Asia and naturalized in northern temperate areas; found in fields, open woodlands, along paths, and in clearings

Culinary use

Alpine strawberry leaves are frequently used in herbal tea blends. The small, delicious fruits can be eaten fresh; cooked in desserts, preserves, and sweet or savory dishes; or made into wine.

Medicinal use

Alpine or wild strawberry was traditionally used to treat liver and digestive disorders as well as gum disease. Seventeenth-century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper (1616–1654) advised that “the leaves and roots boiled in wine and water, and drank, [will] cool the liver and blood . . . [and] provoke urine.”

Today, strawberry leaf tea is used to treat diarrhea and infections of the gastrointestinal and urinary tracts. The fruits, which contain vitamins B, C, and E, have mild diuretic properties. A natural bleach, the fruits can be crushed and mixed with baking soda to clean stained teeth or applied externally as a poultice to lighten skin and soothe sunburn. Strawberry is used as a homeopathic remedy for skin and mouth conditions.

How to grow it

Native to woodland areas, alpine strawberries thrive in well-drained, humus-rich, acidic soil and partial shade. Cultivated varieties that produce few or no runners make a neat, attractive groundcover or edging plant. Sow the seeds in your garden in fall or indoors in late winter, directly on the soil surface—do not cover them. The seeds germinate best in consistently moist soil at a temperature of 65° to 75°F. Water plants regularly throughout the growing season; they will slow or stop producing if they receive less than 1 inch of water per week. Harvest the berries when they are fully ripe; gather the leaves as needed throughout the season. Divide 3- or 4-year-old plants in fall.