Wild Strawberry Dilemma: Safe to Eat or Best to Avoid?

Wild strawberries are some of the most common wild fruits. They are widespread in woodlands and fields and are very easy to harvest. 

For some reason, many people believe wild strawberries are poisonous. Let me assure you, that they are not toxic and there are no harmful substances in any part of this plant.

The green leaves are in fact also edible and can be dried and used in an herbal tea blend. The only possible risk is that if you consume high amounts, they could upset your stomach because of their high acidity.

The acidity is also true for regular strawberries, which are pretty much just a bigger, watered-down version of their wild cousin.

Fun fact: Despite the name, strawberries aren’t actually classified as berries botanically, or even fruits in the strict sense. The “true” fruits are the achenes, the tiny, black dots on the surface of the strawberry, that are often called seeds.

Wild Strawberries Growing on the Plants

This is because fruit is defined as the enlargement of the ovaries of the plant, which means that the strawberry is an aggregate fruit.

Can You Eat Wild Strawberries?

Yes, it’s perfectly safe to eat wild strawberries. They’re delicious, too. But you need to be careful when picking wild strawberries because there are other factors that could prevent wild strawberries from being eaten fresh.

When harvesting any other wild plant, you need to know what you’re doing.

First of all, be mindful of where you’re foraging. Don’t pick any fruits in areas that could be contaminated.

For instance, avoid the vicinity of roads or industrial areas. Also, since they grow so close to the ground, strawberries are an easy target for dogs answering the call of nature.

Avoid the paths most often taken by dog owners and always wash the strawberries first (which is of course a good idea with any fruit or plant).

Lastly, be sure you have correctly identified the plant before eating.

Fortunately, there are no wild poisonous plants that look similar to strawberries. The only possible mistake is harvesting Indian mock strawberries, which we will talk about later on.

Even if the foraging and cleaning process can become cumbersome, it’s worth it though since these small, dark red fruits are delicious and healthy.

Wild Strawberry Plants Growing

Are There Health Benefits to Eating Wild Strawberries?

Wild strawberries have many health benefits. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is great for the immune system. They have good levels of potassium, an important mineral for heart and bone health.

This plant is rich in anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that can help reduce heart diseases. Also, it contains quercetin, a flavonoid that has anti-inflammatory properties.

Interestingly, wild strawberries have been reported as the second-best fruit for the prevention of breast cancer, after grapes.

Lastly, the folate found in wild strawberries is a mood regulator and can help with sleep and lack of appetite. Many of these substances can be found in regular strawberries, too, just in lower concentrations.

Wild Strawberry vs Mock Strawberry

Wild vs Mock Strawberries
Mock Strawberries Growing

Mock strawberries (Potentilla Indica, or sometimes Duchesnea Indica) are also known as Indian strawberries, backyard strawberries, wood strawberries, and false strawberries. 

Mock strawberries grow in similar conditions as wild strawberries, and they are often mistaken for the wild variety. The two are in fact not closely related, even though they do belong to the same Rosaceae family.

If you know what to look for, it will be easy to tell if the plant in front of you is the one you want.

First of all, mock strawberries grow upwards, while wild strawberries grow toward the ground. This is the main cue and the easiest way to recognize the plant quickly.

If the fruits are not yet present, the color of the flowers will be helpful to show you the differences between the two. The wild strawberry plant has pinkish or white flowers, while the mock strawberry plant has yellow flowers.

The good news is that even if you eat some Potentilla Indica fruits by mistake, there will be nothing to worry about.

Mock strawberries are perfectly edible, they are just not tasty at all and will leave you unsatisfied if you were expecting the sweet juiciness of wild strawberries.

Wild Strawberry vs Regular Strawberry

Wild vs Regular Strawberries
Regular Strawberries Sold at the Supermarket

It might not be surprising to know that the regular, common strawberries that are sold in stores and grown on farms aren’t the same species as the wild ones.

There are actually a few different wild strawberry species. The two main ones are Fragaria Virginiana, which is the most widespread in the US, and Fragaria Vesca, native to Europe and the one with the widest range. 

On the other hand, the regular strawberry is a hybrid, created in the 1700s in France by cross-breeding two wild species: Fragaria Virginiana and Fragaria Chiloensis, which are native to Chile. They are related to the woodland strawberry, also known as the alpine strawberry. 

The modern strawberry is the fruit of centuries of artificial selection, which has created bigger fruits with a longer shelf life when compared to their wild relative.

The ones just mentioned, are the two most noticeable differences between the wild strawberry and the regular, modern strawberry. The regular strawberries are bigger and last longer.

Wild strawberries go bad very quickly once they’ve been picked, which is why they aren’t commercially popular.

Being tiny can seem like a negative, but it actually means that their flavor is much more concentrated. They are much sweeter and taste stronger, and somewhat more flowery.

Can You Grow Wild Strawberries at Home?

Wild strawberries can definitely be grown at home. It’s actually very easy to cultivate wild strawberries at home in your garden.

The awesome thing about wild strawberries is that, in the right conditions, they spread by themselves, forming new plants by sending out above-ground runners, or stolons.

This means you can plant just a few ones and they will reproduce and form a thick ground cover, which in a few years will mean plenty of sweet fruits for you and your wild friends.

Strawberries grow best in cool temperatures, during spring and fall. They can easily survive the colder and warmer months by going dormant.

These plants thrive in full sun or partial shade on rich, moist soils. If your soil is too poor in nutrients, consider enriching it by mixing in some mature compost.

Strawberries can tolerate soils that are a bit on the dry side, but in this case, it’s especially advisable to mulch in the summer months.

Mulching is always beneficial to strawberries since it helps in preserving soil moisture and in preventing weeds from growing.

The best way to mulch in the summertime is to spread a thin layer of chopped straw on the ground in between the strawberry plants.

Using organic materials to mulch has the added benefit of enriching the soil as they decompose. Mulching is also helpful during winter in colder areas, as it keeps the soil isolated from fluctuations in temperature, preventing damage to the roots.

In this case, a thick layer is needed, which should then be removed in the spring to let the sun warm up the soil.

Once wild strawberries are established, they are very low-maintenance. The only thing you need to do is water them during the warmer months.

Generally, the fruits will ripen from April to June, and the wild strawberry plants should be harvested every day.

Many bugs and other little animals love strawberries, and they will get to the fruit if you leave them on the plant when already ripe. Be sure to harvest them regularly.

If you want to grow strawberries indoors with an AeroGarden or other system, that will help prevent insects and animals from getting to them. 

Can You Eat Wild Strawberries – Final Thoughts

Wild strawberries are an amazing food source and are great to eat. They have a unique, sweet flavor that is hard to find on regular strawberries that you find in grocery stores. 

They are small and delicious, and they don’t require any special preparation. If you want to try eating wild strawberries, you’ll first need to know where to look. You’ll find them out in the fields and forests. 

So if you’re out on a hike, don’t be afraid to eat them when you see them. 

Read more about other edible plants: 

Photo of author

Written by:

Denise Davis
Denise Davis is an avid gardener, deeply rooted in growing organic veggies and crafting homemade fertilizers. She cherishes the earthy essence of composting and the continuous learning that gardening provides. Denise sees gardening as a holistic activity, offering physical and mental benefits alongside the joy of consuming what you cultivate. Her passion is to inspire others to embrace gardening as a rewarding, healthful lifestyle.

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