FRAISES DES BOIS (Fragaria vesca) or ALPINE STRAWBERRY is a remarkable treasure of a fruit that has little relationship in growing habits or taste to its larger cousins. These tiny but intensely fragrant and sweet fruits cast few runners, making them perfect choices to grow in window boxes and rock gardens. Day-neutral, they grow about 10" high and spread about 8". Beloved in Europe, where for centuries they were enjoyed by royalty, but little known in America and rarely found in markets because they should only be picked when absolutely ripe - and then they are just too fragile to ship. Just a few of these gems on your morning cereal will give you a new outlook on life! Or served alone with clotted cream as the Victorians enjoyed them! With their pretty white flowers and bright red cone-shaped berries they make a beautiful decorative as well, so start lots and use them to edge your herb bed! Note - be patient. These take a year to begin to produce fruit and the first year's fruit is on the teensy side - gets larger as crown matures. But it is easy, once they are producing, to save seed and multiply your bed for subsequent seasons. 25 Seeds.
MEDICINAL: Not typically associated in the modern mind with medicinal use, Alpine Strawberry was historically commonly used in many different capacities. All parts of the plant were used. The root for diarrhea. The stalks for wounds. The leaves as astringents. Teas made from the leaves are wonderful for digestion (and diarrhea) and to stimulate the appetite, and recent study indicates a high element of ellagic acid, a known cancer preventative. The crushed fruit is very soothing to the skin and has antibacterial properties, AND interestingly can be applied to teeth (with baking soda) or skin to "bleach it white." The berries are an excellent source of Vitamin C and recent studies show them to be high in antioxidants, making them one to add to your cancer protection diet.
GROWING TIPS: Freeze the seed for 3-4 weeks before sowing. They need dark to germinate. Start in pots. Cover lightly and keep at 65-70 degrees. Set out in 9-10 weeks to their permanent homes (after last frost date) into rich, well-drained soil supplemented with lots of organic material. Having said all that, I threw some of these seeds into a corner of a plot last summer and they germinated just fine. Small last year, this year they have exploded into large clusters of blossoms, which I anticipate will bear fruit in June throughout the summer if the Carolina heat doesn't get to them.
SEED SAVING: Sooooo easy! Just lay very ripe berries on a small tray or plate in your refrigerator until they dry completely. Then rub the seeds off the berries! Store in your freezer until you are ready to plant and they will be cold-stratified par excellence!