15 May 2010

Remontant strawberries

I learned a new word. First, I learned it in French. I was looking up strawberries to see if I could find information about a new variety we bought the other day at the market in Selles-sur-Cher from the man we often by asparagus and strawberries from in the spring.

No, remontant is not a place name. That would be Romorantin.

Up to now, the world of strawberries has been divided into four categories in my mind. There are Spanish strawberries; the ones called Gariguettes; others called Mara des Bois; and of course there are fraises des bois — wild strawberries. « Bois » means "woods" and wild strawberries are the ones you find growing in the woods and on roadsides.

These are Charlotte strawberries, a variety we just discovered.

First, Spanish strawberries. Main positive points: cheap, big, with a long shelf-life. Negative points: not much taste, grown not only industrially with lots of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, but also harvested by underpaid, exploited migrant workers and shipped long distances (high carbon footprint). I'll pass.

Second, Gariguettes. A variety developed in Provence and now grown elsewhere in France, including the Sologne region in the Loire Valley. Positive points: juicy, tasty, and delicate. Negative points: fragile — eat them right after you buy them — and available only briefly in the spring. More expensive than Spanish strawberries, but worth the price. The Gariguette strawberry is not a remontant variety.

Third, Mara des Bois. Positives: see Gariguettes — the Mara des Bois is also juicy, tasty, and delicate. And additional positive: Mara des Bois strawberry plants are a remontant variety. Negatives: fragile, and a little pricey.

Fourth, Fraises des Bois. Positives: can be unbelievably sweet. Free when you can find them. Negatives: hard to find, ans with tiny berries — it would take hundreds or even thousands of them to make a pie.

Walt made a pie with a layer of rhubarb compote
on the bottom and a layer of fresh Charlotte
'berries on top, glazed with quince jelly.


Okay, my strawberry world has been pretty limited, considering that I just read on the Internet that there are more than 600 varieties of strawberries in existence. By the way, California strawberries are the same as Spanish strawberries. They'll do in a pinch but don't expect your taste buds to do a tango when you eat them.

So what is this remontant term all about? Well, it's a French word that meant "coming back up, re-mounting." For example, in talking about drinks, « un petit remontant » is a little "pick-me-up" or a tonic.

When applied to strawberry and raspberry plants, remontant means a variety that flowers and produces fruit from spring all the way through to autumn and the first frosts. Remontant strawberries are also called "ever-bearing"or "perpetual."

Rhubarb from the back yard patch

A non-remontant variety, like the Gariguette, will flower just once in the spring and that's it. So Gariguettes, which are maybe the best strawberries I've ever tasted, are available only for a few weeks in the spring. And they don't travel well.

At the Selles-sur-Cher market the other day, the new variety of strawberries we discovered is called the Charlotte. Here's what I read about it on a web site:
Fraise remontante et vigoureuse, peu exigeante en éléments fertilisants, faible sensibilité à l'odium et aux différentes maladies, fort potentiel de rendement, excellente qualité gustative, sucré, peu acide, disposant d'un arôme fort en fraise des bois. La Charlotte est une fraise de forme regulière,de coloration rouge vive, brillante et ferme.

In English:

An ever-bearing and vigorous strawberry plant with low fertilizer requirements, a high tolerance for mildew and other maladies, high yields, excellent sweet, not-too-tart taste, and a strong fragrance of wild strawberry. Charlotte-variety strawberries are uniformly shaped, bright red, shiny, and firm.
And that describes what we bought from the vendor at Selles. I hope he will be selling them all summer — he said they are grown locally by his son. We paid four euros for 500 grams of them — that would be about U.S. $4.50/lb. Walt made them into a strawberry-rhubarb tart, using rhubarb from our patch out in the garden and a home-made butter crust.

By the way, have you seen how far the euro has plunged in value against the U.S. dollar? Right now, one euro is worth $1.25. That's 80 eurocents for your dollar, compared to about 65 eurocents a few months ago. If you're coming to France this year, you will enjoy that extra buying power.

6 comments:

  1. Hold that euro! We'll be there.

    Even though it's to our benefit, the fall of the euro gives me no pleasure, considering what it means in the euro zone. However, I'd like to think returning confidence in the US dollar can be credited somewhat to our new president.

    Leaving dollars and euros aside, nothing in life has ever made me feel richer than when we had a big strawberry patch. That felt like wealth!

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  2. I would be happy if the Euro and the dollar would be of the same value.
    Once in a while in open air markets, I can find tasty strawberries, but nothing like the ones I've had in France.

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  3. We're starting to get strawberries pedigrees at our farmers' markets. Very nice.

    I grow Sequoia strawberries, which are tasty, ever-bearing, and too delicate to be sold commercially.

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  4. We are coming to Europe this year and we have been closely watching the decline of the euro. It is expected to fall even further. Possibly as low as one to one against the dollar.

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  5. Thanks for the tip on the Charlottes. I'm going to have to put some of those in my garden.
    The tarte looks yummy.

    PS. have a great time with Martine from Belgium. Give her my best.

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  6. If the dollar and the euro ever fall "equal' then I'm going to transfer my $$ over here!
    If the dollar and the euro equal out- maybe more friends will come out here to visit! : )

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