You may be surprised to learn there are more than 600 varieties of strawberries, stemming from five or six original wild species that are a member of the rose family. If you get a chance, go to a local farmers market during the strawberry season in your area (usually April through June in the U.S.) and sample a few types; you’ll be surprised how different they are in shape, color, and taste. Typically, the larger the strawberry, the more water it contains; the smaller the strawberry, the greater the intensity of flavor. For the most local of treats, nothing beats the flavor of strawberries picked fresh from your own garden.
From Albion to Ventanas, there are 15 popular varieties of strawberries you will find grown or sold in the U.S.
Albion strawberries have a darker color, both internally and externally, and a consistently sweeter flavor than most strawberries. This strawberry plant is known for its large, symmetrical fruit which is mostly conical and very firm. The high sugar content makes it ideal for including in desserts, as well as eating out of hand. The plant is tolerant of heat and humidity and may even remain evergreen in areas with a high chance of frost. Albion plants are disease-resistant and yield a high amount of fruit.
Allstar strawberries are generally paler than other varieties. They grow big and firm, though, and have plenty of sweetness and juice. They are the kind of berries that are particularly great for slicing and using in salads. This strawberry plant, boasting fruit with an almost perfect strawberry shape, is a popular variety during the late mid-season. The glossy firm fruit, which holds its size very well, is an excellent pick-it-yourself or home garden choice.
Alpine strawberries (fraises des bois in French) are a tiny and exquisitely sweet wild strawberry from France. They are sometimes labeled "mignonette." These little jewels aren't much larger than a small fingernail but are gigantic on flavor. They sport a small white flower, grow higher up above the leaves, and bear fruit throughout the summer, peaking in the middle of the season. Although Alpines smell delicious when picked, their flavor is somewhat subtle; sprinkling with sugar and letting them sit to macerate will help bring out the best of these berries.
Aroma strawberries are large and firm with great flavor, good color, and a bright sheen. These berries produce significant yields and are still delicious in the late-season, too. The plant is resistant to mildew and spider mites, and is tolerant of a range of environmental factors, making them ideal for the backyard garden.
Camino real strawberries have a firm, dark red fruit (inside and out) with good flavor. The plants are smaller and more compact and are tolerant to rain. Camino real usually have great yields, although the fruits appear later in the season than other varieties. This strawberry is delicious to eat out of hand but also works well cooked or processed.
Diamante strawberries are known for their large fruit size, exceptional fruit quality, and excellent sweet flavor. The firm fruits have a bright red sheen and are ideal for eating fresh or using in preserves or pies. Diamante strawberries are a popular choice when making chocolate covered strawberries. Their harvest is bountiful from the spring until the first frost.
Earliglow strawberries are early producing (hence the name), medium-sized strawberries with fantastic flavor. They are considered the best flavored of all the widely grown commercial varieties and are prolific in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and Midwest. The size of the berries decreases greatly as the season progresses, making it difficult for U-pick farms to sell the later fruit.
Fragaria virginiana (American wild strawberry) are small, juicy, delicious red strawberries that are much richer in flavor than the commercial varieties found in stores. This is one of two species of wild strawberry that was hybridized to create the modern domesticated garden strawberry. Fragaria virginiana ripen late spring through early summer and can grow in a wide range of soil and sun conditions, from full sun to nearly full shade, and thrive in meadows and on hillsides.
Garden strawberries are the most common U.S. variety. They are large berries that can stand up to less than ideal growing conditions and have a recognized traditional strawberry flavor. The first garden strawberry was bred in Brittany, France, in the 1750s using a Fragaria virginiana from eastern North America and a Fragaria chiloensis from Chile. Garden strawberry varieties' harvests can range from just a few weeks in June to a few weeks in the spring, the summer, and the fall.
Hood strawberries hail from that nirvana of all things berry: Oregon. They have a short season of just a few weeks, so get them if you can. This strawberry is the standard for use in premium ice cream in the Pacific Northwest. The plant has large, bright, glossy red fruit that turns dark when fully ripe. These strawberries have a sweet flavor and excellent fruit quality and are great to use in preserves and jams.
Rosa Linda strawberries are a medium-sized berry with a bright red color all the way through the fruit. The plant produces high yields early in the season of full-bodied flavorful and aromatic fruit, and smaller berries later in the season. It is a cultivar that originated in Florida and named for the berry's pleasant aroma.
Seascapes are bright red, perfectly "strawberry" shaped, and have a symmetric, medium to long conical berry with a glossy finish. Seascapes are a favorite at roadside stands and farmer’s markets because they aren't sickly sweet. The plant produces two crops—one in the spring and the other in the fall—and does well in hot and dry climates.
Sweet Charlie strawberries are orange-red on the outside and orange streaked with white in the inside. They have a distinctly sweet flavor due to a high sugar-to-acid ratio. These berries are medium-sized, deep red, and very flavorful. Plants are well-adapted to southern gardens, vigorous, and highly productive.
Ventana strawberries are bright red fruits that are slightly lighter in color with excellent fruit quality. They have good flavor, a standard shape, and are large in size. This plant generally bears its fruit in June and is a cultivar that originated in California. The fruit does well selling in both fresh markets and can handle processing.