Plant Profile: Strawberry

Plant profile: Strawberry

Fragaria x Ananassa, common garden strawberry


Strawberries, along with raspberries, are actually part of the rose family. They contain high

levels of vitamin C, and are a good source of manganese. As you might guess from their vivid

red color, strawberries are full of antioxidants, which help to counter inflammation in the body.

The common garden strawberry we are familiar with should not be confused with mock

strawberry, Potentilla Indica, also known as Duchesnea Indica. This wild plant does have edible

fruits that closely resemble miniature strawberries, but they have little to no flavor. Please be

cautious when gathering wild foods, and take care to properly identify before eating. It is always

best to err on the side of caution.


There is however a small variety of wild European strawberries, called alpine strawberries

(Fragaria vesca), which bear very flavorful little fruit and can grow well in our area if planted.

Additionally, they can tolerate more shade and fog than typical garden strawberries. They are

fairly easy to find. Might be a good choice if you are thinking of growing your own strawberries

at home.


On that note, an expert coastal California gardener, Pam Peirce, recommends steering clear of

those 'strawberry pots’ with multiple openings. If you want more information regarding

homegrown strawberries be sure to reference the latest edition of her book, Golden Gate


There are two main kinds of strawberry varieties. The “June­ bearing” or “short day” types, have

a short early season. In California, this variety actually begins to bear long before June ­

commonly in April they will start showing up in farmer's markets. But they can sometimes be

harvested as early as fall, winter, and early spring, where winters are mildest (mostly in

Southern California). Then there are “day neutral” types, which will continuously produce unless

temperatures get too high.

Homegrown strawberries require sunny spots, warm weed­free soil, water delivered right to the

roots (not the leaves!), and a steady supply of nitrogen. They are not hard to grow but be

prepared to defend them from hungry birds and other creatures. Mesh netting can be helpful

when used to cover plants.

There are two common large scale methods ­ plasticulture, for annual plantings, or perennial

beds, where plants are given a few seasons then discarded. In plasticulture, irrigation lines run

along the plants underneath a layer of black plastic which surrounds the bed. Each year before

they are planted, the soil of these beds is intensively fumigated to prevent pests and diseases,

and after harvest the plants are plowed into the ground. The fumigation process kills every living

thing in it's path.

In conventional agriculture strawberries are one of the most contaminated crops due to the

concentration of chemicals used ­ an average 300 lbs per acre. Some of the chemicals used to

treat strawberries have been linked to cancer and reproductive organ damage, some are

banned in other countries.

EWG, the Environmental Working Group, annually lists the “Dirty Dozen” crops that are

important to buy organic due to health risks from pesticide residue and strawberries continue to

top the list. They are sitting at #1 on the 2016 Dirty Dozen.

The good news is that there are plenty of places nearby to get organically grown strawberries if

you don't plan on growing them. We encourage you to get out to a farmer's market for the

freshest, most flavorful berries available. Or pick your own and enjoy a day at the farm!





Wash a pint or two of organic strawberries and chill in fridge.

Blend a big handful of organic cashews with water, a pitted date or two (or a splash of maple

syrup), and a dash of vanilla extract (1⁄4­1⁄2 tsp to start, add more if you like, don't overdo it).

Blend until smooth.

Dip freshly washed, chilled berries in cream ­ a super easy dreamy dessert!

For fancy presentation, try slicing berries in half, arranging on a plate, and spooning a dollop of

cashew cream into the center of each berry.

Try topped with a blueberry or small piece of chocolate. Oh yes.

Links to local organic strawberries: please contact the farms directly for u­pick details


Swanton Berry Farm

U­pick Sundays now open!


Live Earth Farm


Santa Cruz Farmer's markets


Market info:



120 Russell Ave, Felton




Cedar St & Lincoln St, Santa Cruz




King's Village Dr, Scotts Valley Community Center, Scott's Valley


Western Dr & Mission St, Santa Cruz




15th & Eastcliff Dr, Live Oak





Kku (2016, 6/20) Strawberry. Retrieved from

Peirce, Pam (2010) Golden Gate Gardening. Seattle, WA: Sasquatch Books.

Walker, Bill/ Linda, Sonya (2016, 6/20) Pesticides + Poison Gases = Cheap, Year­Round

Strawberries. Retrieved from

Image credits:

botanical illustration

mock strawberries

alpine strawberries

strawberries with cashew cream: