As we were driving in a car to meet Olivier, one of the partners of a wild strawberry farm, the sun was shining right into our eyes. To the left there are mountains and to the right there is Alboran sea. It is almost like the road is cutting the landscape into two parts. Having come from grey London where the weather changes between 0-10 °C and it may rain, may snow, or you can see the sun, it felt surreal to have such a blue sky and feel the warmth of the sun.
Together with his partner, Olivier grows fraises des bois all year round and sells them globally. One of their clients, a French chef, has been using these little red berries for 40 years to make the finest ice-cream. Even the royal british chefs use wild strawberries from this farm to prepare desserts for the Queen.
The farm lies in the valley surrounded by mountains which makes it the perfect location for growing berries. During the winter season it takes about 6-7 days for a single berry to ripen. In summer this time is reduced to a single day. We saw a lot of other fruits and vegetables being grown in the valley: mangos, avocados, tomatoes, lemons, and even palm trees. As we chat about the process of growing berries, Olivier takes us to the new field where they have just started growing this year.
The earth around bushes is covered with old grass and small branches in order to reduce the amount dirt. When berries are picked, they are never washed, and are sent as is, otherwise they soak the woater and become watery.
Depending on the destination and time it takes for delivery, some berries travel with ice packs in the boxes in order for them to arrive fresh. In Europe it normally takes just one day for the precious cargo to arrive.
Olivier organically grows his wild strawberries without the use of any pesticides, however because the farm located in the valley and some of the farmers do use some sort of fertilizers, a trace of these might be found on the leaves. Because of this is becomes extremely hard to get certified as organic producer. There is a lot of work being done in order to receive certification, but it might still take time.
Fraises des bois is an extremely hard berry to work with, but when the recipe is perfected, you are rewarded with a taste that will make you smile and happy for a long time. Dried berries lose most of their smell and taste which means we cannot just dehydrate them and mix with honey. The experiments continue.
As we prepare to leave we are given a box of fresh berries. The smell is unbelievable! And what a taste!