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A Very Merry Winter Berry

 

A Very Merry Winter Berry

While you’ll likely savor Alpine strawberries until late autumn, on occasion you might snatch the last few stragglers in December.  However long they last, you’ll be glad to have Fragaria vesca in your edible landscape.

Commonly known as Alpine strawberries, they’re not only native to the USA and Canada as well Asia and Europe, they’re also true heirloom berries. Because they are so tender, they are not usually a commercial crop.

Although petite in size, these hardy little perennial beauties that will survive to minus 0°F pack a surprising punch with super sweet fruitiness.  Their fragrance and flavor will scent your plate like no other garden strawberry.

Alpine strawberries are also commonly called wild strawberry, woodland strawberry, European strawberry and fraisier de bois. The woodland strawberry variety (Fragaria vesca var. vesca) bears fruit in June, while Alpine strawberries produce fruit all summer long (according to The Strawberry Store).

Like all woodland berries, Alpines aren’t hybrids as with most of the usual strawberries we grow in our gardens.  So, Alpines are one of the only types that will grow true-to-seed, if you collect their seed to sow the next year.

They’re very well-behaved in the garden scape given their lack of runners.  However, they will self-sow but usually remain within reasonable space. Excess plants can easily be potted to share or enjoy the larger yield.

Requiring little attention, Alpines flourish in most garden soil as long as it’s not soggy. Growing to 1 to 2 feet tall, they make excellent border plantings beneath taller plants or trees that provide them with their preferred filtered light.

Alpines also make wonderful container plants if kept in the shadier side of the garden. Unlike hybrid strawberries, they don’t need bright sun to enrich their crimson blush-colored and creamy-skinned fruits as do hybrid strawberries.

There are creamy-white Alpines, too.  If the red ones don’t get you, then the whites surely will with the pronounced fragrance and flavor of intense pineapple. No kidding!  You certainly won’t taste that with hybrid strawberries!

Flowering from early spring through summer and well into autumn, you can have a readily- available supply of these delicious, petite berries on hand.  They bear fruit the first year they’re planted.

If you plan on starting Alpines from seed, be patient as it can take up to a month for their first green sprouts to pop.  Plants are an option if you’re not one to wait.  Whichever way you choose, once started, your plants will self-sow so you won’t need to plant them again.

You can divide the crowns of mature, established plants for more plants and thinning brings new life to existing plants.

Alpine strawberries are best enjoyed fresh when fully ripe.  When mature, they easily slip from their stems.

So, if you’re craving some of these intensely fragrant strawberry and pineapple-flavored berries, put in some Merry Alpine berries of your own.

 

Sources for Alpine Strawberry Plants and Seeds:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

http://rareseeds.com

They have seed for Alexandria (scarlet) and White Soul varieties.

 

The Strawberry Store

http://thestrawberrystore.com

They have the most varieties, including: Yellow Wonder and Pineapple Crush, the best-flavored white varieties as well many red types, both seed and plants.

 

Raintree Nursery

http://raintreenursery.com

They have five varieties of Alpine plants.

 

 

Recipe:

Alpine Strawberry Napoleons

1 package frozen puff pastry (17 ¼ oz) thawed

½ cup organic confectioners’ sugar

1 cup heavy cream

2/3 cup 2% vanilla Greek yogurt (Tillamook was used here)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

zest from one organic lemon

2 pints of Alpine strawberries (red, white or both)

2 tablespoons organic sugar

 

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Open pastry and with a serrated knife cut into eighteen 2×3-inch rectangles.  Place strips on parchment-covered baking sheets. Bake for about 7-10 minutes until puffed.  Remove strips from oven and gently press them to about 1/8” thick with a wire rack. Bake another 8-10 minutes until light brown.

Increase oven to 475°F.

Dust all the strips evenly with confectioners’ sugar (a small shaker works best or a fine sieve) and return to oven for about 10 minutes until browned.

In medium bowl, combine cream and organic sugar.  Whip until soft peaks form.  Add vanilla and almond extracts, yogurt and lemon zest.  Whip until stiff peaks form.

To assemble six pastries:

Spread or pipe ¼” layer of whipped cream on 12 of the pastry rectangles, then top with a single layer of berries.  Stack six filled pastries atop the other six filled pastries. Place a plain pastry rectangle on top of each of the six filled pastries “towers”.  Pipe a rosette of cream atop and pop on a berry.

Six servings.