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The strawberry from Plougastel: thank you, mister Frézier, the explorer from Savoie!

Illustration picture | 3268zauber / CC-BY-SA
Exploration Speciality

What’s this?

Those strawberries are gariguettes, cultivated in Plougastel-Daoulas, Brittany.

You won’t miss them, with their long shape, their sweet taste and juicy texture.

People are fond of that fruit: the city opened a Strawberry museum but also created a Strawberry Festival, once a year in summer!

The little history

The primitive strawberry

In Antiquity, people called the strawberry fragum. Fragum means "perfumed"... nice name for that delicious fruit!

French people cultivated strawberries since the Middle Ages: even king Charles V’s gardener, Jean Dudoy, planted 12 000 trees in Louvre gardens!

Same thing in Rouvres castle gardens, belonging to dukes of Burgundy: duchess of Burgundy was fond of strawberries!

Chile's strawberry

OK, until then, we had the wild medieval strawberry, pretty sour. Nothing to do with our Plougastel fruit!

A man called Amédée-François Frézier popularized it: he brought back the famous strawberry-tree from Chile, in 1715!

He was an engineer, born in Chambéry in 1682, from an old Scottish family (Frazer).

After studies in Paris, Amédée worked in Saint-Malo, Brittany, on the ramparts' extension. But he was dreaming of exotic journeys...

The occasion came in 1711: they sent him inspecting Spanish colonies in South America. He left Saint-Malo on November 23th.

In June 1712, he arrived in Chile. When inspections were done, Amédée started to discover the local flowers (he was botanist too).

Oh! He noticed a wild strawberry-tree... and brought it back in France in 1715.

After this trip, Amédée was appointed director of Brittany’s fortifications, in Brittany. That’s why the strawberry was introduced in Finistère area...

In 1760, Breton and French people started to cultivate Chile strawberries.

Louis XV adored them, he planted trees in Versailles. In 1766, books talked about these fruits: a man called Duchesne published L'histoire naturelle des fraisiers, "Natural history of strawberries".

At the same time, the legend says writer Bernard Le Bouyer de Fontenelle loved strawberries more than anything else: he died as a centenarian, because he ate plenty of those red fruits!

Strawberries made in Brittany

This fruit business became very prosperous at the end of the 19th century.

Plougastel-Daoulas is located between the left bank of river Elorn and right bank of Daoulas: a peninsula with a micro-climate due to Gulf Stream...

Besides, those lands are also known as "Brest gardens"...

In 1870, we had 200 hectares of culture; in 1940, 1 000 hectares. They produced 6 000 annual strawberries they exported abroad.

In the middle of the 20th century, Plougastel became the second French strawberries producer!

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!