HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >
What are you cooking today? Share your food adventure
TELL US

ISO: Charlotte/Mara des Bois strawberries

g
gijoeanne Apr 11, 2010 06:44 PM

Cheap strawberries abound now at the supermarkets! However, I still cannot shake the taste of the strawberries I got from a market in Paris...completely unlike anything I've ever eated in North America - they actually have TASTE! My French skills were non-existent, but I swear I was told they were "Charlotte." Obsessive Googling later revealed that it is a cross of "Mara des Bois," another exceptionally tasty variety. It seems the government has approved cultivation of Charlotte (http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/p...), so does anyone know if they can be found in the Toronto area? Or anywhere in Ontario? Montreal?

  1. t
    trombasteve Apr 12, 2010 12:48 PM

    I'm going to respectfully suggest that the difference likely isn't one of variety so much as growing methods. The wild Ontario strawberries I've eaten have been some of the most strongly flavoured things I've ever had, but the big pulpy, watery things in supermarkets are generally not worth eating, in my opinion.

    Naturally, it's still too early in the season now, but maybe you can find what you're looking for in farmer's markets in the summer?

    2 Replies
    1. re: trombasteve
      b
      bytepusher Apr 12, 2010 02:11 PM

      I guess a little bit of the history of strawberry genetics will be helpful here, because your respectful suggestion is unfortunately completely wrong.

      The first cultivated strawberries were the species Fragaria Vesca, commonly known as the woodland strawberry, they are the original "wild" strawberry native throughout the northern hemisphere and eaten since the stone age at least. They are everbearing during the growing season and produce small, highly flavoured fruits that are red throughout. Genetically they are diploid meaning they have 2 sets of 7 chromosomes. Charlotte and Mara des Bois are recently developed (1997 and 1991 respectively) cultivars of F. vesca. The "wild Ontario strawberries" with the strong flavours you have had are also probably the native F. vesca.

      I say probably because in North America there was also a similar wild strawberry, called Fragaria virginiana, but it fruits once yearly and is genetically octoploid, meaning it has 8 sets of 7 chromosomes and therefore much more potential for variation in breeding. It can't be crossbred with F. vesca. Sometime in the 18th century someone in Brittany had the bright idea of crossbreeding F. virginiana with a plant that had recently been brought to Europe from the west coast of South America; the Beach Strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) which was another octoploid species. It produced large berries, red on the outside and white inside, edible but not particularly tasty. The result was we got today's Garden Strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) with big berries, white insides and SOME of the flavour of the wild virginia strawberry.

      For various reasons in the 19th century the Garden Strawberry took over as the dominant commercial crop, cultivars of F. vesca are still grown in Europe as a niche crop where they are value for their stronger taste, among other uses they are sold as a gourmet delicacy at markets, Turkey grows a lot of woodland strawberries commercially.

      I'm not personally aware of anyone who grows everbearing/woodland/wild strawberries of any sort, never mind recent introductions like Charlotte, as a commercial crop in this area but I would LOVE to learn that I am misinformed.

      1. re: bytepusher
        t
        trombasteve Apr 12, 2010 09:27 PM

        All right - interesting reading. Thanks for setting the record straight.

    2. Kagemusha Apr 12, 2010 05:38 AM

      Wait for the Ontario crop to come in--they'll do. Just pray for good weather, whatever the variety.

      Show Hidden Posts