Indian strawberries are small, red berries resembling miniature strawberries. You might have mistaken these creepy, invasive herbs for wild strawberries, but the fruits are less flavorful than wild strawberries.
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What is an Indian Strawberry?
The Indian strawberry (Potentilla indica) is a bright red fruit that resembles the wild strawberry. Other common names are ‘mock strawberries’ or ‘false strawberries. The berries are small and spherical, measuring 1 inch (2.5 cm) long and 1 (2.5 cm) inch wide. And they have tiny red seeds scattered on a bumpy surface.
Known by the scientific name Duchesnea indica, the Indian strawberry is a flowering plant in the rose family (Rosaceae). It is native to Southern and Eastern Asia.
Most people confuse Indian strawberries with wild strawberries since both are invasive species of low-growing herbs with red fruit. However, the mock strawberry produces yellow flowers, while the wild strawberry has white flowers. Also, mock strawberry fruits point upwards, while wild strawberries hang downward.
Indian mock strawberries have a relatively mild taste compared to wild strawberries. Some people eat them raw, likening their flavor to a watermelon’s, particularly the part near the rind. The berries are a good source of Vitamin C, and you can use them to make jelly, jam, or pies.
The History of Indian Strawberries
The Indian strawberry is believed to have originated in Eastern Asia, from Afghanistan to Russian Far East, China, and Japan. The mock strawberry is also native to Southern Asia regions like India and the Himalayas. This fruit was later traded and introduced to Eastern, mid, and North America as an ornamental plant.
It has since naturalized in many parts of the world, including Canada and Belgium.
The Indian strawberry plant is medicinal as an antiseptic, anticoagulant, purifier (depurative), and fever reducer (febrifuge). Hence, it has been used in Chinese medicine for years to relieve various ailments:
- The herb is used to treat stomatitis (inflammation of the mucus lining), tonsilitis, and laryngitis.
- The leaves are crushed and applied as a poultice to relieve eczema, abscesses, boils, ringworm, insect and snake bites, and traumatic injuries.
- The leaves also make a decoction that treats swellings.
- A liquid extract from its flowers helps in blood circulation.
According to Indian folklore, the mock strawberry was used as an offering to the gods.
What Does an Indian Strawberry Taste Like?
The Indian strawberry has a mild taste that most people find bland or flavorless. But some argue that the mock strawberry has a pleasant nibble, like a watermelon close to the rind.
The Indian strawberry maintains its mild taste when cooked or added to meals or drinks. For instance, you can add it to desserts (such as pies), salads, and smoothies.
How to Tell When an Indian Strawberry is Ripe
Here’s how to tell if an Indian strawberry is ripe and ready to eat:
|An Indian strawberry turns from green to ruby red when ripe and ready to eat.
|A ripe mock strawberry will have a mild (or bland) taste, while an unripe berry is a bit bitter or astringent.
|Indian strawberries have a bland, watery scent when ripe. The smell is akin to a watermelon’s.
|When you squeeze the ripe Indian berry, it should be firm and soft like a wild strawberry.
Cooking with Indian Strawberries
Indian strawberries are mainly additions to salads, smoothies, jellies, and jams. So, there’s little preparation required.
Here’s what to prepare your mock strawberries before using them in your preferred dish:
- Remove any remaining sepals or stalks from the berries. You don’t need to remove the seeds since they are edible and part of the berry’s surface.
- Wash the berries well under running water.
- Cut the berries into halves.
Since Indian berries are mainly used for medicinal purposes, no traditional cuisines feature them. But other parts of the herb (especially the leaves) have been steeped to brew herbal tea. The mock strawberry leaves are also added as green veggies in salads.
You can also use the berries as replacements for strawberries in the following recipes if you want them to be less sweet:
Traditional Strawberry Pie: This old-fashioned two-crust pie is easy to bake and makes an excellent dessert. Indian strawberries come in handy when you’re short of the required quantity of berries. The berries don’t add any significant flavor but complement the strawberries’.
Spinach Strawberry Salad: This hearty lunch is a great way to kickstart your spring or summer. Spinach and strawberries make a colorful, flavorful combo, and you can add Indian berries to complement the mix. Add crumbled feta for a creamy dressing or poppy seeds for a cheery texture.
Strawberry Frozen Yogurt: Don’t have an ice cream machine? No need to worry; you can make this yummy treat and skip a trip to the ice cream parlor. You only require frozen strawberries, honey or agave nectar, plain yogurt, and fresh lemon juice. Then add a dash of Indian strawberries to neutralize the flavor.
How to Store Indian Strawberries
Just like actual strawberries, the best way to store Indian strawberries is by refrigerating them. Wrap fresh, unwashed mock strawberries in a paper towel to prevent dampness, and keep them in the fridge if you intend to eat them later when cooled. The berries will remain fresh for a day or two.
To extend their shelf life, keep the berries in a freezer bag and store them in the freezer. You can also place them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and freeze them for a few hours. Then transfer the frozen berries into an air-tight glass container and freeze them again. The berries will stay fresh in the freezer for about ten months.
Nutritional Benefits of Indian Strawberries
Indian strawberries contain beneficial elements, including vitamin C, protein, iron, zinc, and manganese. So this red fruit makes a healthy snack, especially when you cannot access actual strawberries.
The vitamin C in mock strawberries boosts your immunity since it’s an antioxidant. Antioxidants help the body fight harmful free radicals that cause chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Other health benefits of Vitamin C include:
- Wound healing
- Maintaining healthy skin, gums, and bones
- Enhancing iron absorption (prevents anemia)
Where to Purchase Indian Strawberries
It’s unusual to find Indian strawberries in grocery stores since the herb is an invasive weed that grows extensively. The plant produces fruits from April to June and irregularly in September.
But you can buy mock strawberry seeds from grocery stores or seed vendors like Seed Corner and Nikitovka Seeds. The Indian strawberry thrives in USDA zones 5 to 9. It spreads rapidly in semi-shaded areas of a lawn via its creeping stems (stolons).