Fraise de Prin
Prin strawberries are very small, a kind of wild strawberry that has a delicate and unmistakable aroma. This aroma is in part due to the nature of the soil, which is made up of alkaline bogs, which very rare and at risk of disappearing. A few families have grown this product since the beginning of the 20th century in Prin-Deyrançon, a village in the Deux Sèvres Department of France, in the heart of Marais Poitevin, the famous ‘”Green Venice.” Harvest lasts for about 40 days, which gives the fruit its second name, la quarantaine (“the forty”). It is necessary to pick the fruit delicately and quickly place them in small wicker baskets (which hold up to 250 grams each) without damaging them. The strawberries would then be boarded onto a train in the nearby Prin-Deyrançon train station (on the La Rochelle / Paris line) where they were sent all the way to the markets of Les Halles in Paris. There they were served in the most famous restaurants and in tea rooms, accompanied with a glass of champagne and thus called “the strawberries of kings.” Production levels peaked from 1895 (the year that the train station in Prin opened) to 1914, up until the beginning of World War I. During that period several families from the village lived off of their production and commercialization. The Prin strawberries continued to be sold in Paris until 1939-40. It seems that this strawberry was cultivated during the Belle Époque (1895 – 1940) as well in the nearby villages (Le Bourdet and Cramchaban). At the beginning of the 20th century, estimated production came close to three tons per year. Even today the fruit is still cultivated in very small quantities.
The fruit is at risk of disappearing because of the decline in production and the fact that this species is a low-yielding variety, difficult to harvest, and linked to a very specific area that is quite small. In 2005, Prin strawberries were still produced by a single organic farmer in Prin-Deyrançon, the village that gave the fruit its name. The strawberries were sold in the form of jams between 1991 and 2005, and they are still cultivated in extremely small quantities for the preservation of the species and for personal consumption.
La fraise de Prin est aujourd’hui encore produite par un unique agriculteur biologique sur la Commune de Prin-Deyrançon, commune qui lui a donné son nom. Il l'a cultivée de 1991 à 2005 pour produire des confitures qu'il vendait sur les marchés locaux et, depuis 2005, pour la conservation de l'espèce et pour sa consommation propre. Il semble qu'elle ait été aussi cultivée à sa grande époque (1895-1940) sur des communes voisines (le Bourdet, Cramchaban). Au début du siècle (de 1900 à 1905 des données sont disponibles), la production estimée avoisinait les 3 tonnes par an. Aujourd’hui, elle est cultivée en très petites quantités.
Cette fraise présente donc un grave risque d’extinction pour les raisons évoquées précédemment : plus de production commercialisée, un seul et unique producteur, et une variété à faible rendement, pénible à récolter, et liée à un terroir très spécifique et très réduit géographiquement (tourbière alcaline du Marais Poitevin).