The Importance of the Strawberry

The Strawberry Clarion Call

The strawberry is a clarion call for change of season, and here we have a variety called “gariguette” that we all adore because it’s johnny-on-the-spot, out of the ground and into the market well before any other variety.

Tinkering Botanists and the Strawberry

Botanists spend their time tinkering with our food, doing their best to make us happy with form and flavor. The gariguette is no exception. It was “invented” or “discovered” by botanist Georgette Risser in the 1970’s, as she worked in her laboratory not far from Avignon to create what she considered the finest possible strawberry.  It was named after the street upon which one of her colleagues lived, Chemin de la Gariguette, and it is the most popular strawberry in France.

Why is Gariguette so Popular?

For good reason.  First, it arrives early.  Second, it is juicy and aromatic with an edge of acidity that gives it character.  Sold in “barquettes” or little wooden boxes, the gariguette is so good, so special, such a welcome change that I challenge anyone to arrive home with any – it’s just too easy to eat them all on the way!

Many Other Varieties

The gariguette gives way to many other strawberry varieties once the weather has warmed, with a particular favorite being the mara des bois, a very close relative to the gariguette.  And thanks to the work of people like Georgette Risser, we now have local strawberries through much of the summer, to everyone’s delight.

The Bordelais and Their Wine and Berry Thing

In the region of Bordeaux, the Bordelais have a very special way of eating their strawberries which is surely born of tradition and, I wonder, distraction.  Tradition because the region produces so much red wine which is sipped in every home, and strawberries thrive in every French region; distraction is just imagined.  But think about it – a big bowl of fresh berries is set on the table after salad and cheese have been cleared away.  A guest takes a berry and, with curious distraction, slices a it into her glass of wine then using a spoon or small fork, fishes out the slices.  It turns out the combination is magically harmonious, and the tradition persists.  And that is how great tastes are made!

So, do as the Bordelais do, and slice some gorgeous berries into your glass of  red. Bon Appétit!

2 thoughts on “The Importance of the Strawberry”

  1. I LOVE food history; somehow makes things taste better, riper and more enjoyable. Thank you for sharing this! Now you have set me on a quest to find the plants here in the US to grow them!

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