Summer has full on begun in France and it won’t be long before Instagram feeds will be stormed with photos of pique-niques on the grass with a star character: the strawberry. French fraises are the most photogenic and, of course, yummiest delight. And somehow they taste better in France than anywhere in the world. You can run out to any old grocery store or marché to buy yourself a box of fraises that will be absolutely delicious. For those curious, there is a legitimate explanation for the sweetness of French strawberries.
There are over 100 varieties of strawberries in the world, but the kind you will encounter at the market in France is called gariguette. These are quite special because they were first grown in 1970 in the largest strawberry-production region in France: Lot-et-Garonne. Indeed, the Association Interprofessionnelle de la Fraise (Interprofessional Strawberry Association) is located in that region. The gariguette is the absolutely perfect, legendary French strawberry created by those who know everything about strawberries.
The shape of the berry is slightly elongated and often quite small. Unlike the golfball-shaped American strawberries with almost no taste to them, the gariguettes are sugar-sweet in flavor and extremely fragrant. They are grown in the most flower-rich countryside of Provence and therefore soak in all the sun and honey flavors of the land.
You will mostly see these strawberries throughout May and June, and surely you will see the endless pictures of them against a Parisian background. In Paris, they will be sold at every local marché and supermarket but be wary of their faux-amis, Spanish strawberries. These are much larger and look more appetizing because of their deep red coloring and perfectly round shape (but trust us, they’re not as delicious). The Spanish berries are usually stacked in rows in wooden boxes. Just look out for the signs indicating where your berries were grown and give them a good hard sniff: imported Spanish strawberries are not as fragrant because they are often harvested while still green.
In NYC, gariguettes are a rarity and will only begin to appear in markets like the Green Market at Union Square in early June. To those in France, happy picnicking, and to those in New York, let the count down to early June begin!