About Musk Strawberries!
Musk Strawberries are also called bubble berries and hautbois or hautboy strawberries. They are native to parts of Europe where they are more common than they are here in North America. These strawberries are from the genus and species Fragaria moschata. I’m not real sure at this point how many varieties are known but I’m researching it and have been in touch with a plant historian in Germany. When I get that information I will include it here.
Musk strawberries are hexaploid. This makes them different genetically than alpine strawberries and garden varieties of strawberries. For a detailed explanation of the genetics I refer you to an excellent site at http://strawberrygenes.unh.edu/strawinfo.html. Another thing that sets them apart from other types of strawberries is that a male and a female plant are required to get a crop. They are not self-pollinating though one can get a few fruit from just one plant, but don’t count on it. It is recommended that you get two varieties in order to get a crop. Some experts say that a ratio of 5:1 ‘Profumata’ to ‘Capron’ will produce a crop while others say 8:1 is acceptable. I recommend the 5:1 to be on the safe side. I can’t tell the difference in taste between ‘Profumata’ and ‘Capron’ but ‘Profumata’ produces more fruit in my nursery than does ‘Capron’. We also have male only plants available to help insure a crop and to improve pollination and thus fruit size.
Musk strawberries can also be grown from seed. We can custom grow plugs and during some parts of the year we offer 6 packs of plugs. Growing from seed is the most economical way to start them but there is a cost down the road. One can expect a 50:50 ratio of males:females from a sowing. You can’t sex them until they flower. The expected ratio is heavy on the male side. Males serve only one purpose, to provide pollen for female plants and flowers. Males don’t produce fruit so you will want to thin out the males from the first crop and subsequent crops. This is what I meant by a “cost down the road”. When planting named varieties there is no need to do any thinning, also called rogueing.
Musk plants are large, even larger than garden variety strawberries. At maturity they stand about 18″ tall. They will tolerate shade but do best in full sun with rich soil. They are strong growers and put a LOT of their energy into producing runners, though not all varieties produce the same quantity of runners. ‘Profumata de Tortona’ seems to win in the runner producing category. ‘Capron’ produces less than ‘Profumata’. One thing I did notice with ‘Profumata’ and ‘Capron’ side by side. The Japanese beetles prefer ‘Profumata’. They hardly touched the ‘Capron’. I wonder what’s going on there.
I treat all strawberries the same and this seems to be just fine with the musks. They seem to need a higher level of fertilization, probably due to their size. They also seem to need more water, also likely due to their size.
It is real hard to describe the taste of a musk strawberry. I read that someone described it as the tastes of strawberry, pineapple and raspberry all at the same time. I think they taste like wine and their aroma reminds you of a fruity wine. One thing is for sure. You will never forget it once you’ve tasted it. And, you’ll probably be disappointed when the short season is over. Musks produce normally in early June here in Delaware. If the season is cool production might last for 3 weeks. I’m told that it’s possible in some areas to get a small fall crop. We have seen flowers in November but it was too late to set fruit.