Wild strawberries, or fragaria vesca, are extremely common in the midwest and other areas as well. They’re hardy plants that love to grow in grassy areas or along the edge of wooded areas. For many of us, if your grass isn’t pristine, sounds kind of like your backyard, right?
It’s actually quite likely that if you have wild strawberries in your lawn, and you’d never know because they keep getting mowed down before they have a chance to grow and produce fruit.
The solution: learn to identify wild strawberries, find them, and care for your berry patch!
Can You Eat Wild Strawberries?
Yes – and they are edible and they are tasty. Wild strawberries are not toxic or poisonous, and maintain the iconic strawberry flavor. They are typically more on the tart side (which we love), and seem to have a bit more concentrated flavor. This makes them a fantastic addition to smoothies or any fruit dish without needing to collect a billion of them.
It is important to know how to identify wild strawberries, as with any plant that you are foraging. It’s common to find plants that look similar to what you wish to find, but they can be drastically different. In this case, you’ll need to watch out for mock strawberries. These imposters have similar traits, but you may be disappointed if you mix them up. More on that below.
Wild Strawberry vs. Your Typical Strawberry
There are many similarities between wild strawberries and the ones that you would buy from a store:
- Taste – Both varieties of strawberries are sweet and juicy. They start out more tart and become sweeter as they ripen.
- Plants and Seeds – Aspects of the plant such as the leaves and flowers, as well as the way in which seeds are attached to the outside of the fruit are similar.
- Color – Both wild and regular strawberries start out a very pale greenish white color and become a bright red when ripe.
- Season – Flowers in early spring, followed by fruit in late Spring through mid-Summer, are traits of both strawberries.
However, there are also a few key differences:
- Size – Wild strawberries are much smaller than store-bought strawberries, ranging from about the size of a small pea to about the size of a penny.
- Shape – Wild strawberries tend to be much more round than the typical strawberry shape – being larger near the stem and coming to a rounded point.
- Texture/Density – Store-bought strawberries are much more firm and rough than the wild berries. So be gentle when you’re picking. Soft wild strawberries are easy to squish on accident.
Identifying Wild Strawberry Plants
Strawberry plants are luckily rather unique and easy to identify. These plants have a reddish stem and three leaves – not to be confused with poison ivy, they actually look much different. Unlike poison ivy’s darker green leaves that are jagged only on one edge, strawberry leaves are more of a yellow-green and are jagged on all sides. The leaves also have veins running up to each point on the leaf’s edge.
Flowers on both wild and regular strawberry plants are white with a yellow center and have five petals.
The fruits of wild strawberry plants are red, small, and round. Often they are a bit more wrinkly and softer than normal strawberries.
Wild Strawberry vs. Mock Strawberry
Like we mentioned before, you’ll have to look out for mock strawberries when you’re searching. Both are edible, neither is toxic. However, unlike tasty wild strawberries, mock strawberries are very bitter or sometimes rather tasteless. They also have a much pokier or bumpy texture. So you don’t have too much to worry about, but if you’re going for a bowl of sweet juicy strawberries and grab a handful of those bland little spike balls, you won’t be satisfied.
So how do you tell the difference between mock strawberries and wild strawberries? Their plants are very similar, as well as their fruit being similar in size. There are two key differences that will help you tell them apart: the flowers and the fruit.
Both flowers have five petals and a yellow center. However, wild strawberries have white petals, whereas mock strawberry flowers are yellow.
Their fruits are both red and about the size of a pea or a little larger, but the mock strawberries have little bumps and spikes, where wild strawberries are softer, and have wrinkles and seeds on their exterior.
So there you have it – wild strawberries, fragaria vesca. Take a look at your backyard today. Do you have wild strawberries that you’re missing out on?