The wild strawberry is a small plant in the rose family that grows in woodland clearings and meadows, along roadways, and possibly in your own backyard. Some people regard it as a weed, yet this easy-growing, fruit-bearing plant can make attractive ground cover yielding a plentiful crop of small, sweet strawberries.
Appearance: Fragaria virginiana/vesca is a small plant, three to five inches tall, that propagates from runners, although seeds from the fruit are also distributed by birds and animals.
The light to medium-green leaves, with toothy edges, grow in groups of three, on single stems, in early spring.
Clusters of white flowers have yellow centers and five petals each, growing on a stem that may rise above the main leaves but may also bloom and fruit just below or beside the leaves.
Basically, the wild strawberry looks very similar to its domesticated counterpart but on a smaller scale.
Propagation: The easiest way to cultivate wild strawberries is to find an established patch then dig some up for transplanting into the spot that you have in mind.
Push a hand trowel around each individual plant, about three or four inches away from the main growth, and gently pry up the root ball. Immediately place the plant in a pot or bag and water the soil. Plant as soon as possible, either in pots or, if it’s early enough in the season, in their permanent location. Keep evenly moist until the plants begin putting out new growth.
Wild strawberries can be grown successfully in strawberry pots, garden planters or window boxes, but probably do best in the ground. In fact, wild strawberries make an excellent spring to mid-summer ground cover in certain spots, spreading quickly by runners. After fruiting, however, the plants begin to go dormant and you can’t expect substantial growth until the following spring.
Plant wild strawberries in full or partial sun conditions, in soil that retains moisture but can also go partially dry. You’ll find wild strawberries growing naturally in soil mixed with gravel or sand (such as road sides), but it can also thrive in clay soil amended with composted manure.
Although wild strawberries are small, their intense flavor makes for a wonderful wayside treat on late-spring to early summer trail hikes.
At this time, you can also harvest sufficient berries from a large patch to make delicious strawberry jam and preserves.
If you can’t find enough strawberries to make into jam, freeze them and add them a little later to wild raspberries or blackberries for what my neighbor calls her annual jars of “free berry” jam. Love!
See Small Batch Microwave Jams for some super easy, delicious jam recipes calling for only two to three cups of berries.