Single Packet of 450 Seeds
Chenopodium capitatum is a North American native species and member of the amaranth that's grown primarily for its lush and colorful ornamental appeal. The plant's botanical synonym is Blitum capitatum, and its common names include:
- Blite goosefoot
- Strawberry goosefoot
- Strawberry spinach (most common)
- Indian ink
- Indian paint
Strawberry spinach berries are about 1/2" in diameter with a randomly beaded surface. They develop from light-green, star-shaped flowers on long, pendulous racemes. From a distance, the berries resemble hot pink or red puffballs. The berries have a pulpy texture, and while they're sweet, they're not particularly flavorful. Still, our customers report that they enjoy snacking on them straight off the plant. Hand-spinners who love to dye their own fibers might like to experiment with strawberry spinach berry juice, which is a traditional Native American pigment. Native cultures also soaked the seeds for several days to remove the bitter flavor, then dried and ground them to include in breads and cereal.
One to 4" strawberry spinach leaves, which are triangular and broadly-toothed, are high in saponins and tannins with a notable amount of oxalic acid. When thoroughly cooked, they're a suitable vegetable with a grassy, spinach-like flavor.
Strawberry spinach prefers cool, mountain meadows, and it's grown as an annual in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-9. They'll easily re-seed themselves, especially in cool, moist climates. They're hermaphroditic, meaning you don't need to grow multiple plants to produce fruits.
Sowing the Seeds
Strawberry spinach quickly develops a long taproot, and is best started directly outdoors as soon as you can work the soil. Remove rocks, debris, and clumps from your beds, and work 2" to 3" of aged, screened compost into the soil. Make sure the soil surface is smooth and damp—not wet. Broadly scatter the seeds and cover them with 1/8" soil, or—for individual seeding—plant to a depth that's equal to twice the seed's width. Keep the soil moist with a fine mist until germination.
Strawberry spinach grows relatively quickly provided the right conditions. Select a spot where it will receive full sun; it tolerates light afternoon, shade, but with a noticeable difference in vigor and berry production. Strawberry spinach prefers rich, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Provide consistent moisture, mulching around the bases (avoiding the plant itself) to help prevent evaporation, maintain soil temperature, and fend off slugs and snails. Chenopodium capitatum is not particularly susceptible to pests and diseases, but over-watering may cause root rot.
Germination & Growth
Strawberry spinach quickly grows from a base of large, spreading, sometimes curling leaves. The long, hairless stems bear increasingly smaller foliage, ending in the flowering and fruiting racemes. The top-heavy plants tend to flop over, giving the plants a charmingly chaotic appearance.
Days to germination: 7 to 14 days at 65°F
Plant height: Average 2' tall
Plant width: Average 2' wide
Growth habit: Upright, branching, sprawling
Recommended spacing: Plant or thin 12" to 18" apart
Chenopodium capitatum flowers emerge in June, giving way to the bright, globular berries through August. There's no need to stake them, though mulching with straw might prevent berries from lying on the soil.
Harvesting & Storage
Use clean scissors to snip individual leaves, or hand-pick the berries. Refrigerate your harvested greens in plastic bags; do not wash until you're ready to serve. Older leaves should always be cooked, but you can try new, tender leaves in salads. Berries are sweet but not uniquely flavorful. Still, they may garnish fruit salads and desserts, or offer up a snack to garden explorers.