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Experimental Farm Network - Russian Strawberry

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05/17/2024 16:16:58
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EFN co-founder Nate Kleinman loves buying food from international food markets, especially ones that carry the food of his ancestors. Northeast Philadelphia is full of such stores, including a few supermarkets that once you're inside you could easily imagine are in Kyiv or Minsk or Kishinev. The first time he set foot in a NetCost Market (across a large parking lot from the epic Georgian Bakery and its outrageously cheesy kachapuri breads), he was thrilled to find frozen bags of tiny wild strawberries from Russia. Each bag, about the same size as a typical bag of frozen peas, cost an eye-popping $20, but Nate has harvested wild strawberries en masse before, so he knew that was a fair price. He also figured the seeds on those berries would be viable, so he splurged on a bag.

Being knowledgeable about wild strawberries, and having tasted each of the most common species (Fragaria vesca, Fragaria virginiana, Fragaria chiloensis, and Fragaria moschata), he didn't need to do more than smell the thawing berries to know that these were clearly alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca). The look and taste (with its characteristic wintergreen undertones) confirmed the identification. This was not at all surprising, since alpine strawberries are the most common Eurasian wild strawberry species (which is also now considered native to parts of North America, likely spread around the world eons ago by migratory birds), and it's also the wild species most often found in cultivation in Europe, particularly in countries like Italy and France (where they have been grown since at least the 1300s).

After a spin through a dull-bladed blender with added water, strawberry seeds settle to the bottom and the pulp floats, so Nate was able to make some delicious alpine strawberry jam even as he processed the fruit for seed. That spring the seeds proved viable, and what we're offering here are similarly processed seeds from imported frozen fruit. We don't know if these come from a particular named variety, but it's safe to assume they come from productive enough plants to grow them at a large scale for freezing and exporting.

GROWING TIPS: Wild strawberry seeds do best with 85 days cold moist stratification. Seedlings are very small and must be coddled in their infancy. Once the leaves reach full-size, the plants can be put in their permanent position. They may spread via runners or be clump-forming (individuals of this species may behave in either way). They will only fruit reliably in full sun, or close to it.