A strawberry valley sits tucked at the base of the hulking Ptolomey mountain range, in the Crowsnest Pass, Alberta. In my memory, the wind (a constant force of life in the Pass) missed that valley and allowed the sun to fully soak the wild onions, Indian Paintbrush and thistle with heat that smelled of sweet licorice.
Every summer my family of six would unload from our white, 14 passenger van and hunt for wild strawberries in this small pasture. Tiny nuggets of pure gold to the tongue. Warm and sweet- they belonged in our mouths1 Unfortunately, the fruit didn't appear to agree, hiding itself well behind creased, multi-pointed leaves that hugged the ground.
When it came for me to plant my first strawberries in the garden, I bought the ones the garden centres sell. I have a number of varieties and all are more delicious than the berries that travel in plastic clamshells to the supermarket. However, they have never satisfied my hunger for their smaller, sweeter cousins.
When I began looking to buy some wild strawberries last year, I had no luck sourcing the actual plants so I googled "wild strawberry seeds". They turned up on ebay, of all places, and I purchased two packets of 50 seeds.
They arrived in April and I planted half of them in my square foot boxes right away. I then planted a flat of 25 indoors and set it on my south facing window sill.
Both grew! The ones I planted in the garden were slower to sprout, but remember snow continued to fall into May 2010 for us in Edmonton. In mid-June I transplanted all the seedlings into a narrow section of garden bordered by a walkway and fence. Through the summer they grew happily in the part-shade, and quickly began to send out their magical little arms- the ones with fingers that touch the earth and grow a new plant.
Last time I checked Richters Seeds has the seeds for sale. If you are searching, double check for the latin names: Fragaria Virginiana and Fragaria Vesca. These are true wild strawberries- offering aggressive ground cover with many sweet, red rewards.