A springtime fruit lauded by the French, the strawberry is also a victim of its popularity … Recently, thefts of strawberries from producers, particularly in Vaucluse, in the open fields or in ventilated greenhouses, evoke an organized system of resale rather than theft. anecdotal. Despite these attacks, despite the vagaries of the weather, such as the lack of sunshine at the end of winter, and the frosts at the beginning of April, the sector seems to be in good shape. Despite the problems of consumer purchasing power, sales are very dynamic, especially in supermarkets, where strawberries are regularly shown in promotions.
France-Spain, strawberry match
2020 and 2021 have been a good year, and with these achievements we are currently in the process of, Emeline Vanspin, Director of the Association of National Producers Organizations (AOPn) analyzes strawberries in France. The start of the 2020 season, disastrous due to the downturn, enabled the sector to gain national preference from the government, which continued the following year. The French production support rhetoric had an important resonance, leading to an increase in the number of operators and a proliferation of farming areas. »
But the worst enemy of the French strawberry, apart from some parasites and chronic diseases, associated with its cultivation in the open ground, remains its main competitor: the Spanish strawberry. Cheaper than the French, due to lower labor costs, intensively produced, above ground most of the time, Spanish fruit is often tired and watery. Bigger volume – 280,000 tons per year compared to only 60,000 tons for French strawberries! -, the Spaniard has been able to dominate the market, especially since “purchasing power colonizes the debate”, comments Emlyn Vanspin. This year in particular, rising energy costs, and the conflict in Ukraine which has also had an impact on the cost of packaging, fertilizers and raw materials, have increased production costs for producers.
If the abundance of French production over the past three weeks, due to the peak heat in May, is very real, the bottleneck is present: “There was a shift in the early strawberry, of the Garriguette variety, which usually occurs at the end of February, and arrived in March, with a delay of about 10 days, that is, at the same time as the Spanish strawberry, which is also late this year. Hence the difficulties that our producers have in selling their volumes, ”continues Emeline Vanespen. “Accumulation” delights consumers, the first to benefit from promotions, but not producers in regions Main production, southwest, southeast and central area.
In Ile-de-France, Damien Vanhalst, grain grower and owner of La Fraiserie de Houdans, in Yvelines, feels little interest in the Iberian competition: “With my seven varieties, perfectly suited to our climatic environment, between oceanic and continental, I am fortunate to have found so many outlets, Between the beginning of May and the end of June: 90% of direct sales, the rest divided between restaurants, bakeries and local shops, totaling 5 tons. We pick in the morning and sell in the afternoon, twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday, at the Villiers-Ponchartrain station. A big bonus for this worker who works In the Hanging Gardens he says he is “shocked by the inhumane conditions of seasonal workers on Spanish production farms.” A remark shared by most chefs and pastry chefs who use strawberries and turn almost exclusively to local produce of the same kind. Because strawberry season, which is in full swing, is Also an excuse for the competing creations of ingenuity and indulgence.
One of the favorite fruits of pastry chefs
Its fragrance, flavor and color make it an almost inexhaustible source of inspiration for most pastry chefs who eagerly await its arrival. “In the fall, we work with figs and chestnuts, followed by apples and pears, which keep us busy all winter, and then we have citrus fruits…So the strawberries, when they arrive, are really a sign of renewal!” says pastry chef Nina Meteer, whose favorite was the strawberry cake. Since childhood.” I make my way, with nice, round, slightly firm strawberries, just on request, into a large cake to share and serve very fresh: Genoa bread biscuits, almond inside, slightly drenched in strawberry juice, light creamy muslin and poached whipped cream with plenty of Strawberry on top. Guy Krinzer, chef at Lenotre, never stopped praising the genius of the house’s founder Gaston: “He invented everything, in 1966, basica reinterpreted strawberry, which has always been well received by our customers, then strawberry shose, in 1968, Britton Cake, Strawberry Jam, Cheese Mousse, Pocket Lined with Whipped Cream and Goconde Biscuits. But the strawberry tart was present in its era: in puff pastry, with a pinch of almond cream and light cream! Today, we make a pie to order, in shortbread dough, garnished with almond or lemon cream, covered with a thin layer of wild strawberry cole and garnished with beautiful Garriguette strawberries. It’s raw and natural without the red jelly layer we used in the past. »
François Perret, pastry chef at the Ritz, enjoys making strawberry tart available in two versions: one solid and one liquid! The first, a somewhat classic pie, has become a signature that its customers demand, from season to season, flavored with dried basil, garnished with strawberry Ciflorette – in season – topped with whipped cream: Not just any: “Crème d’Etrez, my native Bresse, a marvel, Without the slightest hint of acidity! It’s my favorite product. Here, it diffuses and extends the flavors of fruit, like candy. Cream, strawberry and sugar are a natural combination! The most innovative is the pastry drink, “Strawberry Pie Drink”, sold exclusively at the Ritz Paris Le Comptoir. To taste it with the straw, On the spot or to take it away, it combines the smoothness of fresh wholegrain biscuit milk and light whipped cream, all “spiced” with crumbled basil and a bit of confit…
The audacity of Quentin Lechat, Royal Monceau’s little pastry prodigy, is also limitless: If a strawberry tart, sweet dough base with brown almond flour, and seasonal strawberry in carpaccio and whipped cream, now a classic, the “strawberry pearl” was a real revolution! Biscuits soaked in bergamot and vanilla, vanilla creme brulee, Tahitian vanilla mousse and fresh strawberries, decorated with “caviar” of strawberries soaked in agar-agar, a sophisticated technique obtained by steam cooking. just awesome ! But this uniform fruit sometimes has other surprises in store, like when it’s cooked and delicious.
Deception in a salty version
In Sergent Recruteur, in the 4th arrondissement, Michelin star Alain Pégouret transforms duck liver into a sangria with strawberry, for an unusual introduction. Same note, with its layer of white asparagus, strawberry, and lulu (an exotic fruit with green and sour juice, from the tomato family) that unexpectedly excites the taste buds. At his eponymous restaurant in the 7th arrondissement, Chef David Toten, for his part, admits his passion for green strawberries: not a new variety, but Cleary, picked early, 20 days later, by its supplier. “I cook it in a pickle, with a ‘brine’ consisting of water, vinegar and flower honey, three weeks before serving it with appetizers, and it is necessarily short-lived: squid, peas and lemon leaf broth. Strawberry pickles, left whole with their stems, are a condiment on the plate, But the vinaigrette that labels the peas is made from the juice of pickles.” Another hobby of the chef: liters of strawberry vinegar, obtained from kombucha (fermented seaweed), where he puts the fruit to marinate, for an explosive result, “The leaves are floral, lively and full of taste.” .
At the Lutetia brasserie, Chef Patrick Charvet’s always impeccable menu recently introduced a new appetizer, the “Summer Burrata,” consisting of Ciflorette strawberries from Camargue, along with various heirloom tomatoes, olive oil, olives and celery, not forgetting of course the burrata. Generous from Puglia. A nice twist on the classic combination of tomato and basil, which is in principle inseparable from this cheese. As a dessert or in a savory version, strawberries definitely have everything to keep chefs busy, right up until their last appearance of the season, at the end of September!