Heirloom strawberries???

Peg_AKJune 21, 2003

Is there such a thing? If so, does anyone know of a source for them?

It seems most of the "newer" strawberries put on huge big berries, but they lack the taste and sweetness of the ones I remember as a child. (Or maybe my memory is fading???)

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Happy gardening!


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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Is there such a thing? If so, does anyone know of a source for them?

Yes Peg, there are such things.

I've done searches for sources for specific varieties, but you have to know the name of the one you're looking for first.

I know of no specific sources that specialize specifically in heirloom strawberries. But there are several sources where they do carry more than the normal number of varieties.

Maybe you remember the old varety Sparkle? Much smaller berries with a tremenmdous burst of flavor.

But I find some of the so called newer varieties can be great. I think it's just a matter of variety selection.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2003 at 8:52PM
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wesley_va(z7b VA)


I grow a number of heirloom strawberries at Colonial Williamsburg but they would all be considered inferior by todays standards. The origin of our modern strawberry was a chance cross between the Chilean strawberry F. chiloensis and the North American strawberry, F. virginiana. The N. American strawberry produces a small, very sweet fruit while the Chilean produces a large, somewhat tasteless fruit. The cross first appears in France, either late in the 17th century or early in the 18th century. It produces what became known as the Ananassa, or pineapple strawberry. This became the parent of all modern strawberries. Occasionally you will see a variety called White Carolina, which is one of the progeny of this cross and appears to date to the 18th century.

One of the most popular European strawberries in 18th century Virginia was the Hautboy strawberry, F. mouschata or the musk strawberry. As the name implies, it has a rather musky, though not unpleasant flavor. I find it somewhat difficult to grow in the hot, humid coastal plain of Virginia.

The alpine strawberry, F. vesca semperflorens, is another old strawberry that seems to come out of Switzerland late in the 18th century, a very ornamental plant with pretty good fruit.

I obtained many of my strawberries from the National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, OR. This is a very interesting site that would be worth your while to visit.


    Bookmark   June 22, 2003 at 9:42AM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

I grow a number of heirloom strawberries at Colonial Williamsburg but they would all be considered inferior by todays standards.


We meet again, but not at Williamsburg. LOL Just you wait, it might happen. (smile)

Thanks for the interesting strawberry history.

Peg had posted that she was looking for varieties she might have known as a kid, which is why I answered the way I did.

There are still available some commercial varieties from the 1920's on up, which folks are growing and which apparently have pretty good taste although not the growing consistency and disease tolerance of some of the newer introductions.

Now Peg, I don't know how old you are, so I don't know when you were a kid, but I do think that time range I mentioned would fit your needs as to finding some of those oldies. LOL


    Bookmark   June 22, 2003 at 10:55AM
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greenwitch(Sz19 SoCal)

My mother, age 75, found one of her favorites in a farmer's market (not sturdy enough for shipping to the big supermarkets). She brought me 3 boxes which I savored as they are very sweet and flavorful. The variety name is Seascape.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2003 at 4:02PM
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lindasgarden(z3/4 MN)

Two of my favorite varieties from my childhood are still readily available today they are "Ogallala" and "Ozark Beauty." The Ogallala has a wild flavor, and the Ozark Beauty is sweeter.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2003 at 2:48PM
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Back on the 60's my mom used to raise strawberries called "Premier." I've still never tasted any as good as those were!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2003 at 7:33PM
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Octogenarian(z5 Lake Erie)

I have a new? everbearing, ogallala. It had berries continuously all summer, enough to eat. When do I mow them to promote new growth?. middlebasso@webtv.net. Doug

    Bookmark   August 15, 2003 at 8:03AM
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kevins_choice(qld australia)

I once grew commercial strawberries and i picked two varieties (califorian) for taste as i was going to sell at the flea markets and i always sold all of them my favorite was chandler. once people tasted them they always bought some. Another important thing for taste is to pick them full red as they only get sweeter on the plant. Well thats my two cents worth. kevin

    Bookmark   September 7, 2003 at 8:18AM
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vanlola(NE ARG)

Hello there,
When I was a kid (70's) my grandma in Argentina used to plant a variety I think was called "Tioga". My mom has been trying to find plants of this kind in Argentina but it seems almost impossible. Can someone give me an advise on where to find that particular variety nowadays?
Many thanks!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2004 at 1:45PM
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I have wild strawberries growing in my front yard - any thoughts on growing/propagating these? The fruit is small and deliciously sweet! It would be nice if I could get a real crop of them...

    Bookmark   June 17, 2004 at 1:32PM
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mistercross(z6b Ozarks)

Of the varieties mentioned in this discussion Chandler and Seascape are not heirlooms. According to the commercial link: http://www.rootstock.com/variety.html they are both University of California introductions in 1983 and 1991, respectively. (I have not done business with this site and am not endorsing it.)

I've included a link below that lists varieties pre-1965. It is a long page and probably includes more information than the average person will want to know. Good luck on finding many of those varieties still available now. Ogallala and Ozark Beauty are mentioned under two of their anscestors, Dunlap and Fairfax. Premier is discussed under Howard 17 (are they the same variety?). Sparkle is mentioned a number of times, both as descendant and ancestor of other varieties.

Froogle and Google searches did not turn up many sources of Tioga. Those that did come up were primarily in Australia and New Zealand. Or you might try Chandler, a descendant of Tioga.

Here is a link that might be useful: Strawberry Varieties 1900-1965

    Bookmark   June 20, 2004 at 9:21PM
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Does anyone out there know if there is anyplace that sells the variety called "Fairfax" ? My father grew these years ago and has been unable to find any plants for years. Any help would be much appreciated.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2004 at 8:29PM
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mistercross(z6b Ozarks)

doggberry, I've looked all over the internet for any Fairfax source. It sounds like a great variety, with the one downside being that "its excellent flavor does not develop under some weather conditions." I could not find one commercial source anywhere. I'd like to grow some!

But there were two vague possibilities: http://www.gardenerschoice.net showed up in the search as selling Fairfax, but when I went to the site it wasn't in their catalog. They may not sell it anymore or it could just be sold out for the year.

Also, on a 2003 NAFEX message board someone from: http://www.fedcoseeds.com/seeds.htm said that they wanted to carry Fairfax. However, they have taken down their catalog for this year and next year's won't be up until December.

Check the '05 catalogs of those two sources.

The ultimate source of old material is the government program NCGR - Corvallis they are the germplasm bank for much of this including Fairfax, Tioga, Dunlap, Aberdeen, and really obscure varieties. They keep !TWO PLANTS! of each variety so that virus-tested stock can be developed. They don't have everything. Noticeable by their absence are Etters 450, Howard Supreme, Rockhill, and really old varieties like Hovey. These may have disappeared before NCGR was established.

Here is a link that might be useful: NCGR Distribution Policy

    Bookmark   June 24, 2004 at 5:21AM
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jimster(z7a MA)

As a kid in the '40s, my family gathered wild strawberries for shortcake and jam. These were the best I've had, although they were about the size of a fingernail and very soft.

Later, about the time they had their first home freezers, some of my relatives started cultivating "tame" strawberries. Sparkle was the variety and they were pretty good. These are still available.

I have heard that Fairfax is a very good tasting variety.

Alpine strawberries are similar to the wild ones in size and taste. They are quite easily grown from seed and the plants make a very attractive edging.


    Bookmark   September 4, 2004 at 9:01PM
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I pick strawberries up in Maine every year at a commercial pick-your-own - and whether because of climate or soil they seem much more flavorful than the ones grown here in NY. I generally bring down a cooler with six quarts in it and when I gave some to a friend she declared they were so superior to the local stuff that they were like some exotic fruit. OTOH I pick fruit with another friend and it doesn't matter whether it's strawberries, raspberries, cherries or peaches, she says they aren't as sweet or good as they were last year, the year before or.... Hasn't occurred to her that maybe it's her sense of taste that has changed. Unfortunately that happens as we get older and then we think back to the way things used to taste and lament the decline in flavor (or fragrance) in modern times.
Oglalla is a modern hybrid and I purchased plants some years back from Farmers Seed and Nursery but ultimately decided that growing strawberries was too much like work.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2004 at 2:16AM
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bill_southerncal(10 So.Cal)

The two varieties I like aren't heirlooms. Like someone pointed out, Chandlers are really a good strawberry. They are sweet, juicy and soft. When they bear near the end of the season, the fruit gets so sweet and flavorful that I can eat two baskets from the stands to home in 5 minutes. The other variety that is really sweet is Camarosa. This is the Irvine, CA grown variety that is planted in September and shipped to France and other places in winter. Even in less than desireable winters, it is very sweet and has an intoxicating perfume. They get almost purplish late in the season. They are a great shipping variety. The fruit stand told me he doesn't bother selling them here, the French and Japanese will easily pay $6.00 a basket and can't get enough.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2004 at 6:43PM
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Amino_X(z7b AR)

I haven't read all the replies so if I'm doubling with someone my apologies.

I tried a variety this year from Parks called Fresca that I don't think is an heirloom in the true 50 year sense of the word, but it only reproduces from seed. Since it never sets runners you don't have to worry about pinching back etc. and prolificly sets delicious fruit it's first year.

It's an Alpine everbearing variety that sets about 1" fruits.

Best Wishes

    Bookmark   September 17, 2004 at 12:08PM
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i grow strawberries........todays varieties are geared for "john q public"..size is more important for selling than taste it seems..but ..if you know a local grower that is about to put down a patch..see if he will give or sell you a few plants..most berry growers put down a patch after 2 or 3 years of growing as the plants tend to revert back to their beginings of the wild vartiety...if you can get a few of these "worn out" plants you will have the start of your small sweet berries...i would suggest sparkel or veestar...if you go to one of these sellers..go at the end of the season..you will see what i mean...go at the end of the season and ask to pick in the first variety he picked..the berries will be as big as the end of your finger and sweeter than any you can remember from your childhood days....i never eat a strawberry until we are closed for the season..lol

    Bookmark   November 4, 2004 at 7:55PM
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oikos tree crops had a couple native varieties listed for sale: Fragaria virginiana and Fragaria vesca.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2005 at 11:01AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I see this is an old thread that got bumped up recently. I am growing many old types including Fairfax mentioned above. Fairfax is very good but I found Suwannee and Belrubi to be better. Both Fairfax and Suwannee are descendents of Premier; Belrubi is a French strawberry that is long and pointed. I agree with Billie that most commercial strawberries are food for the eyes, not the stomach. Sparkle and Earliglow are about as good as Fairfax from my limited experience so if you want Fairfax I'd take one of those two which are both easily available.


    Bookmark   April 15, 2005 at 2:53PM
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My mother always said that Catskill strawberries were the best. We grew them as well as our neighbor, in the 1960s.
Here's a link I found that shows some strawberry parentage and year of introduction.(below)
I don't know where you can get catskill plants, though. Nourse farm is near me but they do not list Catskill anymore. Hm.

Best of luck
Maryanne in WMass

Here is a link that might be useful: usda - strawberry list

    Bookmark   April 15, 2005 at 3:39PM
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hi, im 13 years old and i would like strawberry seeds to grow, preferbaly alpine and heirloom strawberries, if you know where i can purchase any through mail order here in the uk, or if you have any to give away, i have chive seeds if you are interested please email me with any info on 9444@baconsctc.co.uk
thanx in advance,

    Bookmark   April 16, 2005 at 2:29PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Catskill is available from the ARS collection. You can only get a couple plants so it takes a few years to build a bed up. See the link below.


Here is a link that might be useful: Catskill at ARS

    Bookmark   April 16, 2005 at 11:16PM
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Hello Simon:
Franchi Sementi Seeds are sold in Europe. They have a good special selection of Alpine Strawberry that performed well here in the USA. Perhaps you can find a source closer to you?

Good luck
Maryanne in Western Massachusetts

    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 12:28PM
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Scott when you say you can only get a few plants from ARS can you tell me what that place is, how it works and how a home gardener can utilize it ? I have heard of seed banks,etc.But don't know alot about it.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2005 at 2:23PM
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mindsmile(z5 ma.)

Hows the service from?-Indiana berry and plant co.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2005 at 5:58PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Heidi, strawberries are maintained at the Corvallis facility. Go to the webpage below and look for information on how accessions are requested, and look up the numbers. You will get a couple plants from them at their next shipment time. I believe you just missed the deadline for summer shipments, it was May 1 if I recall.

This federal system is the same system that maintains and distrubutes seeds. It is primarily intended for researchers, but if they are not overbooked and you give them a justification as to why you need the plant (including the fact that there is no nursery source), you will often succeed in getting material from them. I feel it is important to not abuse the system because home gardeners aren't the main audience, but it is also a great resource that should be called upon when it is critically needed. This year I got Hunza apricots which are a very unusual kind of apricot from Pakistan that noplace sells that I wanted to experiment with. I also have many kinds of French cider apples from them that I am trialing, to see what kind does well in our hotter climate.

This is the first year that I am going to get a big harvest from my strawberry trial bed, and I am really looking forward to seeing how the berries come out.


Here is a link that might be useful: ARS Corvallis home page

    Bookmark   May 2, 2005 at 2:30PM
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Does anybody know where I can purchase Dunlap Strawberry Plants ????? Thank you in advance ........ Jim

    Bookmark   September 29, 2006 at 6:33PM
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gpd79(Home Z 6B, Summer home Z 7A)

Does anyone know of a plant that produces fruit all summer (or as much as possible) and that produces a very sweet fruit? I'm not too concerned about the size or the color, I just want it to be the tastiest thing I've ever had :-D

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 5:03AM
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Peg, whichever varieties you select, you can probably find a supplier by browsing through StrawberryPlants.org's directory of Strawberry Plants for Sale. It is an open directory, so anyone who sells strawberry plants can be added, I think.

sushimaster, for strawberry seeds, you can view a similar directory of suppliers who offer them by clicking here: Strawberry Seeds for Sale

Hope that helps!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 8:42PM
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I get really nice heirloom plants from www.rareseeds.com I orignally found them throught a friend that gardens only organic and heirloom plants. Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 7:46PM
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