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Can You Eat Wild Strawberries? | What You Need To Know

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You can eat wild strawberries; however, you should always confirm their species before consuming them. Eating unknown berries can cause many adverse reactions. Beware of mock or poisonous berries, as they’re not safe to eat.

Even though finding a strawberry-like fruit might seem exciting while on a tiring hike, eating it immediately isn’t the best course of action. Therefore, in this article, I’ll be covering how to tell the difference between a wild strawberry and a mock berry, along with the dangers of eating unknown berries.

Are Wild Strawberries Edible?

Wild strawberries are edible; however, it’s crucial to be sure that you are identifying the berry correctly. Mock or false strawberries are often misidentified as wild strawberries. Mock strawberries are not poisonous, but there are dozens of other similar berries that are.

Before you eat an unknown fruit in the wilderness, you need to be one-hundred percent certain of its species. Even those who feel confident in their ability to correctly identify most types of berries can make mistakes from time to time, which is why double-checking your opinion by consulting with a credible source is always a good idea. 

In the case of wild strawberries, they’re commonly misidentified and confused for mock strawberries. Mock strawberries and wild strawberries are similar visually. Luckily, mock berries aren’t poisonous.

Though it’s good news the most common mix-up isn’t going to kill you, you should still take this as a word of warning. Many other species of berries can end up making you very sick or even killing you if you eat them. Common berries you shouldn’t be eating are:

  • Holly berries
  • Mistletoe
  • Jerusalem cherries
  • Pokeweed berries
  • Ivy berries
  • Creeper berries

For this reason, even if you think you have a wild strawberry on your hands, you should double-check to make sure.

How Do I Identify Wild Strawberries?

You can identify wild strawberries through visual cues. They typically grow on the ground and comprise a white flower with five petals. The leaves of a wild strawberry will be egg-shaped, have toothed edges, and are furry to the touch. The berries will be red and similar looking to strawberries.

Ripe wild strawberries
Egg-shaped “toothy” leaves
Wild strawberries flowers
Wild strawberries usually have 5 petals

Fragaria virginiana is the technical name for wild strawberries. The species is found all over the US. Additionally, the woodland strawberry and mock strawberry are common finds on hikes and lawns.

Identifying Wild Strawberries

Wild strawberries aren’t poisonous and taste much sweeter than the variety you might find at the store. However, an incorrect identification could be more dangerous than you’d think. Therefore, you shouldn’t consume a wild strawberry unless you know for sure that’s what it is. Some important cues to look out for are:

  • The place it’s growing in
  • The color of the flower growing with it
  • The shape of the leaves
  • The texture of the leaves
  • The texture of the berry
  • The shape of the berry seeds
  • The color of the berry

This video takes you through the basics of foraging for wild strawberries:

Even if the berries you’ve found check every box on the list, you should still get the berry double-checked first to be sure. Mock berries aren’t poisonous, but they don’t taste great. However, if you’ve got your berries mixed up, you may eventually eat something poisonous.

Good Tools To Have on Hand for Identification

If you plan to go foraging for wild berries, there are some excellent tools to have on hand that might help you identify the species much quicker. You should invest in a good:

  • Berry field guide
  • Magnifying glass
  • Gloves

Typically, you’d be able to find a berry field guide online for free. If you have access to a smartphone, you can pull up pictures of berries and a map to see if this is a common growing area for them. Having a physical book in your pocket or your backpack is also a great idea, just in case you find a wild berry somewhere you don’t get any cell phone reception.

A magnifying glass is another excellent tool especially if you’ve got poorer eyesight. Some differences between regular berries and their poisonous or dangerous twins can be minuscule, something you’ll need to see up close before determining.

For example, mock strawberries and wild strawberries have different leaves, but the differences can be hard to spot. The tooth-shaped leaves look similar all around the wild strawberry, while mock strawberries have a different look and texture.

Additionally, a good pair of gloves can be essential throughout this process. Sometimes the most dangerous part of foraging isn’t necessarily consuming a fruit but simply picking it. Many might have thorns or quills that will stick into your hand, irritating and potentially damaging your skin.

Common Mix-Ups

As mentioned before, a common mix-up for wild strawberries is the mock or false strawberry. These are also called snake berries or Indian strawberries. They, too, are found in many locations across North America. Below, I’ll take you through everything you need to know to accurately identify the differences between mock and wild strawberries.

What’s the Difference Between Wild Strawberries and Mock Berries?

Wild strawberries typically produce a white flower, while mock strawberries typically produce yellow flowers. Mock strawberries taste bitter instead of sweet and can feel crunchy or dry in your mouth. Mock strawberries aren’t poisonous, but they’re still not pleasant to eat.

Closeup of a bright red mock strawberry
Mock Strawberry
Real Wild Strawberry Close-Up
Real Wild Strawberry

Just to make sure it’s clear whether you’ve got a mock or a wild strawberry on your hands, I’ve highlighted some of the main differences between the different varieties below. It’s important to be cautious when inspecting, as the species grow in relatively similar places, with mock berries being known to grow on lawns too.

Mock StrawberriesWild Strawberries
Visual*2.5-3 inches tall
*Small
*Round seeds
*Yellow flowers
*2.5-3 inches tall
*Small
*White flowers
FeelingDryJuicy
TasteBitterSweetest
Grows InWilderness (often found in lawns and woods)Wilderness (dry locations with rich soil)
Edible?YesYes

All of the listed types of strawberries are technically edible, but mock berries taste bitter and dry. Additionally, suppose you’ve got neither a mock berry nor a wild berry on your hands. In that case, you may be consuming something dangerous. While mock berries aren’t poisonous (they just don’t taste good), other species can make you seriously ill or cause adverse reactions.

Visual Differences

Mock and wild strawberries are similar in size and are usually much smaller than store-bought strawberries. Additionally, the main way to detect the difference between mock and wild strawberries (besides their difference in taste) is by inspecting the flowers on the fruit. Strawberries have white flowers, and mock strawberries usually have yellow flowers.

You’ll notice a difference in the seeds as well. Mock berries have large, round seeds that press up from their skin. They almost look spikey. This layout is different from a wild strawberry, which looks more like an actual store-bought variety. This video will take you through the visual difference between a mock berry and a wild strawberry:

As you can see, they’re pretty similar visually. Still, little important differences should indicate what you’re dealing with.

Differences in Feeling or Texture

You can squeeze a wild strawberry and feel how juicy it is. Mock strawberries, on the other hand, are less berry-like and drier. When you squeeze a mock berry in your hand, you may notice that nothing comes out or that it feels more like a seed. This should be a tell-tale sign of its species.

Differences in Taste

You’ll know if you accidentally eat a mock or false strawberry instead of a wild strawberry. Mock strawberries are hard, bitter, and (as mentioned) dry. Their taste and consistency widely differs from the wild or store-bought varieties. Luckily, they aren’t poisonous and you won’t have to worry about getting sick if you accidentally eat a mock strawberry.

Differences in Growing Locations

Your regular strawberries are likely growing in gardens or on farms. However, wild berries grow on their own (hence their name “wild”) and are found in the wilderness or forests. Wild strawberries are a true treat to find, as they’re sweeter than the store-bought or garden varieties. However, if you don’t know for sure that it’s a wild strawberry, you shouldn’t eat it. Eating the wrong berry may cost you your life!

What Are the Dangers of Eating Unknown Berries?

It may feel like I’m a broken record. Still, I can’t emphasize the importance of being cautious about what you eat out in the wilderness. Whether you’re foraging for berries, finding an appetizing-looking fruit on your hike, or have come upon some neat berries on your lawn, caution is always necessary.

Eating an unknown berry can cause serious illness, a litany of allergic reactions, or even death. It’s important to accurately identify any berries or other fruits in the forest before eating them. Field guides and cell phones can be important tools in identifying berries.

If you aren’t sure what kind of berry you have in front of you, it’s better not eat it. There’s a big difference between the fruits and vegetables you’ve planted in your garden and the random fruits you find in your yard. Identify everything with the utmost seriousness in an effort to avoid any health-related complications.

Many berries found in North America are known for being toxic or poisonous. For example, chokecherries, commonly found here, contain cyanide and can poison your respiratory system. The manchineel tree has toxic sap and poisonous fruit. Pokeweed berries can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, and severe abdominal pain. These species look like the normal berries you might find in your grocery store.

Chokecherries hanging on a tree
Chokecherries
Pokeweed-Berries
Pokeweed berries

Additionally, if you do find out that you have some poisonous berries on your lawn or near you, it’s always a good idea to call a ranger service or even the local parks and recreation. They might come out and put up some signs to warn dog owners and families about the toxic berries in the area. Or, if it’s an invasive species, they may pull them out altogether.

Why Do I Have Wild Strawberries on My Lawn?

The reason why you have wild strawberries on your lawn is that the species are weeds and grow large runners that help them spread across gardens and beyond. Additionally, the conditions created on most lawns are ideal for wild strawberries to thrive. 

Be careful when assuming that whatever is on your lawn is a strawberry. Many berries look similar to strawberries and even mock berries but are more dangerous. Above, I discussed how different species might end up making you ill. For this reason, never take an unnecessary risk. Have any wild fruit thoroughly checked out, ideally by an expert, before eating it.

If you decide you don’t want the wild strawberries or mock berries on your lawn, you can use a common weed killer to get rid of them. Wild strawberries and mock berries can create large vines across your lawn that may make it harder to mow and garden.

Mock strawberry close-up
Wild strawberries can be a nuisance

Are Wild Strawberries Poisonous?

Wild strawberries are not poisonous. As long as you’re certain you’ve identified the species correctly, wild strawberries are an excellent treat, often sweeter and more fragrant than their store-bought counterparts.

You can identify a wild strawberry by inspecting the plant’s flowers, petals, and leaves. Refer back to the “How do I identify wild strawberries?” section for more information on the matter.

Are Mock Strawberries Poisonous?

Mock strawberries aren’t poisonous, but they don’t taste great either. Mock strawberries are bitter and dry. They are often mixed up with sweet wild strawberries due to the similarities in their appearance; however, they’re a different variety.

Eating a mock strawberry won’t kill you, but you won’t likely want to go back in for more, either.

Conclusion

If you find a wild strawberry, you should confirm its species before eating it. Wild strawberries are sweet, juicy, and a rare find. However, if you end up with a mock berry, you’ll be less than pleasantly surprised with the bitter, dry taste. Additionally, if you end up finding a different poisonous berry, its consumption may result in illness or death.

Be sure to use safe practices when identifying berries, and don’t consume anything unless you’re sure of its species. Doing so could save your life!

For more, don’t miss What Color Berries are Edible and Safe to Eat? Which are Poisonous?

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