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The strawberry of Prin

Curiosity François - Conseiller en séjour By François - Conseiller en séjour, the 02 May 2014

It is necessary to me to speak to you about a pearl that little of “maraîchins” know. It is the history of a strawberry. Oh not any strawberry and especially not mine !! It is about the said wild strawberry "The Strawberry of Prin" which was cultivated in the municipality of Prin-Deyrançon, in Green Venice naturally !!!

It is the story which was told me by my father, already Mr loyal in the time…

He tells me, with him in his caravan :

"My son, in the middle of this 1914 spring, coming back from a tour, the circus decides to plant its big top in Paris for some weeks. Between the representations, I decided to take advantage of sweetnesses of Paris and of the spare time which was granted to me to offer me of good time. To begin, I went in a good restaurant.

Welcomed by the butler of this smart restaurant, I settled down deftly the card in hand and dived into this one. Him, planted at me, impatient person and having got back his pencil clamped between the height of his ear and his temple, made it run in the big agile fingers, near to fill his order pad. Very fast, while I salivated because of the abundance of the choice and the profusion of dishes, my eyes were stopped by a dessert in the suggestive name : "The strawberry of kings ". Accompanied with a cup of champagne.

I had to know more about it. I addressed the waiter : "Said to me my nice, what this ?". The waiter apparently touched learns me that he is native of the unique village which produces this strawberry, nested in the heart of the Marais poitevin. Famous Green Venice. The fate makes well things. He hurries up to tell me its history

Here is Sir, at the XIXth end and in the beginning of XXth century, the crisis of the phylloxera having gone on the rampage, the daily farm labourers and their family of the swamp of Prin find in this small seasonal production the means to improve our thin income. Mostly, this work fell to the women of the village and to their daughters, of whom mine !! Oh it is not the only one !!! Other crops as the dandelion, the hazelnuts, the angelica but also the hunting and the fishing rather reserved for my sons, he clarifies, also the snail… And naturally, a multitude of things and treasures proposed by the generous nature in this time, of which the man had to take advantage and profit according to the seasons and in accordance with this one.

But let us return to our strawberries Mr Loyal !!!

It is a tiny strawberry, a sort of wild strawberry in the delicate and unique flavor doubtless owed to the nearness of the alkaline peat bogs of swamps surroundings, where we cultivate it.

My wife and my daughter have to get up early to collect it in spring. 4.00 in the morning !! The harvest lasts approximately forty days, where from her second name "The Quarantaine". The task is rough, the back takes a blow. It is necessary, with delicacy, to pick them blackberries and fast to store them in the small baskets in wicker of a pound without damaging them.

Strawberries are then sent by train by the station of Prin-Deyrançon quite close, to the “Halles” in Paris. They are served in the big restaurants or the tearooms, accompanied with a glass of champagne under the name of "The strawberry of kings".

5 years ago while my labourer's thin salary was not certainly enough any more to feed suitably my family, I decided to rise in the train, following my strawberry by crossing the French campaign to look for fortune in Paris. Arrived at the “Halles”, I met the leader of this restaurant come look on this market for the invaluable renowned strawberry registered on its card.

Having got on and learning that I looked for the work, he proposed me a small post in kitchens and quickly I was able, of pans in place settings, to become the butler of this establishment. He allowed me to work the winter in Paris and to find my swamp to work it the rest of the year, from the approach of beautiful days and announcement of the season of the harvests.
And it is thanks to this strawberry and its history that I am present here up in front of you !!

You indeed think of son that I thank this ambitious man and who has no feet in the same hoof for this extraordinary story. I hurry to order him two strawberries of kings and suggest him joining me to sample them together. Today still, by telling you this history, its taste so delicate, fruity sound return to my memory."

I often think of the story which told me my father and today, when my circus stops in the capital and when I go in one of these big restaurants, I hurry to look if the strawberry of Prin got back to its place on the card. No strawberry of kings ! The time passed. Its business stopped during the first World War in 1914, some weeks after the meeting of my father with this man of the swamp.

And if I remember this history it is whom we are at the beginning of May, the season of strawberries. I say to myself that if I have time, I shall go to visit the descendant of this butler, Michel Gourmaud. He cultivated the strawberry of Prin from 1991 till 2005 and I remind myself that he made it of very good jams. Today, his production of strawberry is personal. But it did not miss to offer plantation of “Quarantaine” to those who asked to him for it. We can thus find this strawberry in every corners of France, in particular in the Castle of the Mill, in Sologne, which shelters the Conservatoire of the Strawberry.

Naturally, I put aside a bottle of the best champagne to sample with him the strawberry of Prin, happy as kings...

Photos credits : Michel Gourmaud, Jacques Morisset


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