Alpine Strawberries: A Sweet Treasure in the Spring
It is hard to imagine in the middle of February that the seed of such a delicate, small, fragrant and sweet fruit could be ready to be seeded. Along with your usual winter greenhouse seeding of leeks, onions and spinach, Alpine strawberries are worth adding to the list. They are a delicious and bright addition to an early spring green salad or garden snack.
Alpine strawberries in their wild state have been consumed by humans for thousands of years. The tasty wild berries grew in prolific amounts in various regions of the world from North America to Ancient Persia. The farmers of Ancient Persia called the fruit, Toot Farangi. They are known to be the first to cultivate the woodland strawberry. The seeds then journeyed on the Silk Road to the Far East and to Europe. The Spanish then brought new varieties to the Americas where native woodland varieties had not yet been cultivated.
Europeans made great progress with strawberry cultivation until the 18th century when the more popular and larger garden strawberry was bred, although some breeders continued to improve and work with Alpine varieties. For example, Baron Von Solemacher was first offered in 1935 by F.C. Heinemann of Germany. While Europe has developed a profitable market for the small fruit, the U.S. is still under the impression that Alpine strawberries are not as productive or valuable as the garden strawberry. As a result, the United States continues to buy specialty Alpine strawberries from Europe. However, Alpine strawberries when cultivated in the right conditions can be incredibly productive! Growing some in a container, as ground cover, garden perimeter or even a main bed in your garden, can bring these incredibly tender and early spring fruit to your table without having to cross the Atlantic.
• Strawberry seed needs to be frozen before seeding. If they have not been frozen for 3 to 4 weeks then germination can take up to 30 days. If they have been frozen then germination can take from 7 to 14 days.
• A starter mix with peat moss is recommended for good drainage or you can add sand or perlite to help with drainage.
• PH of 6.5 – 6.8 is recommended for strawberries and the peat mix can help achieve the desired pH.
• Strawberry seeds need light to germinate. Do not cover the seeds.
• Keep the start mix moist at all times by misting or light watering. If you water too hard the tiny seeds may sink down into to the start mix or drain out of the seeding tray.
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