Thursday, June 2, 2011

Alpine and Musk Strawberries

I was in Oregon the other weekend with my Sister and Dad. On our way north towards Chehalis we decided to travel about twenty-five miles off the highway to a beautiful, lush valley not too far away from Mt. Rainier. We were on a mission to find Alpine Strawberries sold at Raintree Nursery, in this remote place. And we found some. Lots of them actually.

Before this, I thought a strawberry was just a strawberry. But how could I be so silly!? As it turns out, with any species, there are many varieties. The two varieties we picked up were Alpine Mignonette and Musk Strawberries, which are more rare to purchase, thus the reason for taking the backroads. Alpine Strawberries are native to the Northern Hemisphere and grow in woodland areas and in the mountains. According to some archeologists, Alpine Strawberries have been consumed by humans since the Stone Age! They produce dainty, red berries throughout the season and do not send runners. They propagate from seed, which is great for those concerned about strawberries taking over their yard! They are perfect in containers or as border plants in your garden. The berries are quite small compared to the tasteless giants you see in the supermarket today, but their flavor is pungent and sweet. I've heard them described as having mild overtones of almond and vanilla as part of their sweet punch. I was lucky enough to have one ripe berry on one of my plants and I ate it! It was so good. I'll have to be patient for the next few to ripen. I'm definitely looking forward to trying more throughout the summer.

At the nursery, we also purchased several starts of Musk Strawberries. They are native to the central forests of Europe. Like the Apline variety, Musk Strawberries have a unique and superb flavor, a mixture of strawberry, raspberry, and pineapple! They are often used in the gourmet food community. The berries are small and round. Unlike Alpine Strawberries, Musk Strawberries send out runners to propagate new plants, which can take over a space if you are not diligent. But that just means more delicious berries for you and your friends! Eventually I will need to buy some Musk Strawberries for my apartment, but for now my Alpine Strawberries will work great for my small space. The Musk Strawberries are planted at my Dad's house, which I plan to visit often when the berries are ripe.

Strawberries, in general, like sandy, slightly acidic soil. They also like well drained soil and regular watering. They can be grown in full sun to part shade. Even though I'd like to consider myself an expert now in everything strawberries, if you decide to start growing your own, I'd highly recommend reading up on how to care for them. You won't be disappointed. I know there is a rare person out there who doesn't like strawberries, but I'm not sure if they can be trusted. Strawberries are a great snack and are so healthy. Happy strawberry growing everyone!

This post is dedicated to my Sister Sarah!

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