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Can You Eat Wild Strawberries? (And How to Identify Them)

Can You Eat Wild Strawberries? (And How to Identify Them)
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Those who hike often probably have seen them on their route once or twice. Given that they are common at the edge of forests and along banks that get a lot of sun exposure. Heck, you may have even seen them growing in your backyard a time or two.

Yet there is a misconception about wild strawberries. People will tell you that they are not only inedible, but that they are poisonous to consume.

That last little bit? It couldn’t be further from the truth and likely has caused quite a few people to miss out on tasting a wild strawberry or two.

As a matter of fact, wild strawberries are not only completely edible, they are actually highly nutritious, too. But it is easy to be deceived by a look-alike, a fake: the mock strawberry.

Mock Strawberries

Also known as the Indian Strawberry, “wood strawberry,” and “false strawberry,” these types of strawberries aren’t something to be concerned about. They aren’t dangerous or poisonous, so if you happen to misidentify a wild strawberry for a mock strawberry, you will be able to walk away and share your story.

Identifying a mock strawberry is relatively easy, too. Unlike wild strawberries and the ones that you can grow on a farm or in a garden, mock strawberries won’t have a smell or taste to them.

But sometimes a little clarity helps, so here’s the differences to look for when finding wild strawberries.

Identifying Wild Strawberries vs Mock Strawberries

Mock Strawberries

Perhaps the easiest way to tell whether you are looking at a wild strawberry or the mock version is in the color of its blossom. Both wild and farm-grown strawberries will have that familiar green leaf, but there is a subtle difference between those and the mock strawberries that can fool us.

When you come upon strawberries in the wild, look for the blossom. For wild strawberries, look for white blossoms. They share this trait with the garden variety strawberries, and they can’t be missed against the green of the leaves.

With mock strawberries, however, the blossom is yellow in color. So, if you’re out on the trail and spot what looks like strawberries, the blossom can be the easiest way to distinguish whether you have the genuine article or if it is a mock strawberry.

Another dead giveaway when trying to figure out if you have a wild strawberry instead of a mock strawberry is the way that it hangs on the vine. The fake will point skyward while the genuine article will simply dangle down on the vine.

Lastly, if the blossom is gone and you don’t remember the trick with how it hangs, there is one thing to do: crush it. Known as “the crush test,” you pick up a strawberry in your hand and crush it between your fingers.

Genuine wild strawberries will have that sweet smell to them just like the ones that you grow in a garden. The mock strawberries don’t have a scent or taste to them; if you smell nothing, it is the mock strawberry that you are seeing.

Wild Strawberries Have Medicinal Properties

Not only are wild strawberries totally fine to enjoy as a snack on the trail, they have actually been proven to have medicinal uses as well. Being nutritious is about as far away from being poisonous as it gets, isn’t it?

The leaves of the wild strawberry can be used both dry and fresh. They act as a gentle astringent used to combat digestive problems and even to treat diarrhea. The leaves also make for a great cleansing diuretic used to treat gout, arthritis, and rheumatism.

When crushed, wild berries can actually be turned into an ointment used to sooth sunburns that are mild in nature. Another use for crushed wild strawberries is as a liver tonic and it can also be used to reduce fevers.

The root of the wild strawberry has also been used in the past as a treatment for diarrhea. The leaf is still the most commonly used part of the plant when it comes to diarrhea, however.

Even popping a few in your mouth from time to time is a great source of vitamins B, C, and E. So, not only are wild strawberries completely safe to eat, they have more health benefits than you could have realized.

So, the next time you see them on the trail, popping a few in your mouth before moving on is a great idea.

Wild Strawberries vs Farm-Grown Strawberries

Strawberry Farm

The strawberries that we are most familiar with are typically grown on farms. These strawberries are mass produced for public consumption and are the ones we will generally see on the shelves at the grocery store.

Farm-grown strawberries are predominantly used for the fruit, not the leaves. This form of strawberry is high in tannins and vitamin C.

This makes them astringent and also quite good for whitening teeth and tightening skin. Those strawberries also offer immune system support because of all the antioxidants that are in them.

Not only that, these strawberries tend to be much bigger than wild strawberries. That provides more edible food for consumers.

Wild strawberries are primarily used for their leaves as opposed to the fruits themselves. Because they are smaller than the farm-produced strawberries that we are most familiar with, we tend to not see them quite so often.

Different Varieties of Wild Strawberry Flowers

While wild strawberries are denoted by their white flower, there are also other types that can be suited to specific regions. Heck, they may be growing on your property and you didn’t even realize what they were.

The Virginia wild strawberry is perhaps the most popular type of wild strawberry there is. The leaves are light green in color and the berry itself, though small, is quite tasty to consume.

There are wild strawberries that tend to grow on beaches or off coasts. These leaves are dark green in color and have a sheen to them. The berries here are still very much edible, but they tend to not be quite as tasty as their Virginia brethren.

Lastly, another wild strawberry is the woodland strawberry. These types of wild strawberries grow in areas that get a lot of shade and moisture.

The leaves and flowers of this type of wild strawberry tend to be larger than the other species and it has almost a bluish hue to the leaves. They also tend to produce much bigger berries than the other kinds of wild strawberries, which are sweet and delicious to consume.

The type of wild strawberry depends on where you live, but there are different kinds out there to be aware of should you visit a different locale and be surprised that the wild strawberries look different than what you are familiar with.

Growing Your Own Strawberries

Holding a Wild Strawberry Seedling

You can, of course, grow your own wild strawberries, though it can be a somewhat difficult endeavor. This is because you would use the seeds of a wild strawberry to begin planting your own batch.

The problem here is that finding wild strawberry seeds for sale may be a tough get. They aren’t commonly for sale in markets in this form and that is another reason why the more common strawberries that we are familiar with are the ones we see at the grocery store.

To plant those, it is a relatively simple process. Generally, you will want to plant either in the spring or the fall. This is entirely based on the space that you have available for growing them. Excellent spots to grow strawberries include raised beds, in-ground gardens, and garden containers.

You will want to be certain to give your strawberries ample room for runners; around 18 inches or so between each plant. Strawberries can grow in a number of different ways, but the key is to make sure they get at least eight hours of sun if not more.

Also, check the soil levels to make sure that it is slightly acidic, somewhere in the pH range of 5.5 to 6.8.

You can give the soil that is native to your yard a bit of a boost with rich organic matter or some aged compost. A premium potting mix is commonly available, especially when growing out of containers as you can sometimes do with strawberries.

When watering, there are two keys. The first is to not overwater. You will want to give your plants somewhere in the range of an inch to an inch and a half of water every week. The second key is to not wet the leaves while watering.

Keep your strawberries fed with a fertilizer that is continuous release. This will keep the plants well fed, which promotes a stronger fruit production and will yield those big, fat strawberries that we all look for at the market.

When they are ripe and ready to harvest, make sure that you do so on a particularly cool morning. The heat can dry out and wither the strawberries, making them less than ideal to eat.

When you have finished harvesting them, put them into a refrigerator right away to avoid any potential spoilage.