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The Strawberry Trail

les fraises de Plougastel

When the sun shines red

Plougastel strawberries... you only need to say the words and your mouth starts watering. Head for The Strawberry Trail with the ‘Musée de la Fraise et du Patrimoine’ strawberry and heritage museum in Plougastel to find out more about the little red fruit to which this peninsula owes its reputation.

A little tour of a strawberry farm

Plougastel Strawberry

The guided visit begins with a trip to real strawberry fields that cover nearly 4 acres. Here you’ll learn that 90% of strawberry production is now done in suspended gardens and the reason is simple: the working conditions are a lot better! The harvest of a suspended garden can begin in the first two weeks of March, well ahead of strawberries growing on the ground.

This is your chance to learn more about strawberries, especially the ‘gariguette’, the earliest and the star of all strawberries. They don’t much like being transported but are only produced in France. It’s a fragile fruit that doesn’t react well to heat – only 7° to 8° at night, and 11° to 12° in the day. They are harvested at the last moment, as it’s only in the final days of ripening that they gain all their flavour.

Only 40% of the strawberry market is produced in France and 2,400 tonnes of Plougastel strawberries leave these farms every year. But beware: not everyone can use the name ‘Plougastel strawberries’! This title is part of a protected geographic label that indicates that the strawberry has indeed been grown in this region.

Did you know…?

Bumblebee hives are installed in the greenhouses to help fertilise the plants, which helps the fruit to grow in a regular rhythm. And it also means no unnecessary pesticides as these bumblebees are far too precious!

A true rite of ‘Passage’

Plougastel strawberryhas grown thanks to the strawberry trade. Between the two wars, 5,000 to 6,000 tonnes of strawberries were grown each year, which then represented about a quarter of all the strawberries grown in France. Plougastel became the French strawberry capital and one of the richest areas of France. The fruit was exported to Britain through a working cooperative and sold in London’s Covent Garden, where people paid a fortune for punnets of 125 grams. It was said that the six weeks of harvest could pay for a new house!

 

A story that has lasted more than 300 years

2014 was a special year, as it marked 300 years since white strawberries arrived in France.

In 1714, M. Frézier, who had been travelling at the King’s request, brought back ‘white strawberries’ from Chili. Until then, such a thing was unknown in France. Various trials were undertaken to get it to grow in Paris, Marseille and Great Britain – but nothing worked. In 1739, M. Frézier was transferred to Brest. A new trial was carried out in the gardens of the Maritime Hospital, but it was in Plougastel that the plant finally acclimatised. On this peninsula, the white strawberry was crossed with local wild strawberries to create the ‘garden strawberry’ that we know today.

It was only in the 1970s that anyone started to grow Gariguette strawberries.

The white strawberry is no longer farmed on the peninsula, firstly because it was not as popular, and secondly because it was more susceptible to disease.

A museum all about Plougastel’s strawberries and heritage 

The little bus tour is rounded off with a visit to the museum, where you can walk between sea and soil, gaining a better understanding of local history. It helps visitors to understand the impact that strawberry production has had on the residents of Plougastel, as well as its current market.

The permanent exhibition also includes displays about maritime heritage and fishing, the charms of local chapels and the place of architectural heritage within this community, as well as the wealth of traditional costumes, their colours and their detailing.

Contact

Musée de la Fraise

Tel. 00+33 (0)2 98 40 21 18

musee-fraise.net

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