Yet people, myself included, bought them time after time. Was it the bright red color, the distinct heart shape, or the fact that they signal summer that helped sell them? Each time I was disappointed with the flavor, I vowed not to buy them again. But I would soon forget this promise the next time I saw a pile of these eye-catching fruits. It was a vicious cycle.
In France, they get 'em right. Strawberries are rarely large- in fact, the smaller the berry, the more expensive the price. Gariguettes are small strawberries grown in the south of France, with blunt ends and a much rounder shape. They make up 20% of the strawberries consumed here.
They also have the tiny fraise des bois (strawberry of the forest or wood), wild fruit half the size of a cherry and usually the most expensive strawberry at the market. These come into season later in the summer, as I've only seen a few stands carrying them (for up to 6.90 Euros a tub!), and I remember seeing a lot of them when I first arrived in Paris last August.
When my eye caught sight of the berries pictured above at the Marché Saxe-Breteuil this morning, I had to buy them. I crossed my fingers that I wouldn't be disappointed, especially since these were only 1.90 Euros a box. After carefully washing them (some people don't, but remember that strawberries are fertilized with manure a lot of the time!), I took a deep breath of the strawberry perfumes coming out and dug in.
These were excellent- red all the way to the core yet still firm, not a rotten one in the box. Still slightly tart, but it made a nice contrast with the acidity and the sugar. So much intense flavor packed into a small fruit! I confess that I don't know what kind these are. I didn't really glance carefully at the sign- sometimes my instincts kick in and I can tell that something will be good. I just focused on fighting my way through the throngs of French grandmothers threatening to roll me over with their chariots (shopping carts in French).
This was my first time at the market here in the 7ème, and I highly recommend it. It's quite large, with a mix of food, clothes, and other little stands, and its location can't be beat. At the end of the market is Place de Breteuil- a glance up Ave de Breteuil shows the glorious Invalides, and a glance down shows a stretch of grass perfect for a picnic.
So if you're in Paris, pack a knife*, a bottle of wine, a corkscrew, and some water. Head out to a market, buy bread, cheese, fruit, and charcuterie, then stroll over to the nearest scenic spot you can find. While the city is getting more and more crowded, it's still a good time to enjoy the warm weather before the throngs of tourists descend in July.
*Tip- many of these markets have kitchenware stands that sell cheap knives for about a Euro or two. Since you can't carry-on knives in airplanes, it's a nice tool to have for picnics while here in France, and you won't feel guilty about leaving it behind since it was inexpensive!
Scene at the market
View of Invalides in the background
Perfect park off Place de Breteuil for a picnic!
Ave de Saxe / Place de Breteuil
Thurs 7-2:30, Sat 7-3:00