May is the month of the strawberry here in France and of course, to celebrate there is a strawberry festival, Fête de la Fraise.
Held on the second Sunday in May every year this festival is literally all about strawberries.
In fact, it was at this festival in 2017 that they created the world’s longest strawberry cake, fraisier pâtissier, earning itself a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
Five pastry chefs baked lots of individual cakes and then lined them all up together creating a cake which was just over 32 metres in length.
As a lover of cake, especially French cake, I can’t think of anything better.
Apparently, there was 200kg of strawberries used in the making of the cake. And once judged as successful, it was then cut up and sold to attendees of the festival with all the money going to charity.
Did France really invent the strawberry?
Well, this one is definitely up for debate but the French have claimed the strawberry as their own.
Although the little woodland strawberry had been around in Europe since Roman times, the garden strawberries we know today didn’t exist.
In 1714, Amédeé François Frézier, a naval military engineer, was on a spying mission for Louis XIV, the Sun King.
The same king whose wife, Anne of Austria, brought chocolate to France.
Anyway, Frézier was sent to the Spanish ports of South America and heard about some large white strawberries in Chile.
Bringing several plants back with him he gave one to Antoine de Jussieu at the Royal Gardens in Paris.
But although they were big, they lacked fragrance and flavour. Frézier referred to them as being “as big as a small egg”.
So the plant was then sent to Brittany, where it was cross-bred with Virginian and European woodland berries.
Et voilà, the tasty succulent strawberries we know and love today were created.
How strawberries developed in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, Limousin, France
The Dordogne region has always been known for its vines and relied quite heavily on the production of wine.
However, in the 19th century mildew and phylloxera struck the vines and the wine economy collapsed.
Strawberries had previously flourished under the shade of the vines, and the soil and climate leant themselves to good growth too. So the farmers in the region turned their attention to growing strawberries.
Now, Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne has become the home of the strawberry with over 60% of France’s strawberries produced here.
There are a few different varieties of strawberries, but probably the juiciest is Charlotte, usually available between April – October.
What is the Strawberry Festival, Fête de la Fraise
The strawberry festival is a whole day dedicated to the little red fruit and the strawberry growers of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne.
Now in its 30th year, it’s a great way to promote the town and bring recognition to over 400 strawberry growers.
The main event is, of course, the baking of the giant strawberry pie, which is a sight to see.
But as well as that you’ve got a bevvy of stallholders selling everything you can possibly think of that includes strawberries such as jam, smoothies, strawberry cheesecake and more.
There’s entertainment for the entire family with circus workshops, parades, kit making, magicians, street entertainment, face painting and a competition for the best strawberry.
Entry is free and the setting of this beautiful medieval village on the banks of the Dordogne river is just perfect.
How to get to Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne for the Strawberry Festival
There is a small airport called Brive-la-Gaillarde about 34 km/21 miles from Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne with flights coming in from London City Airport.
There’s also a station at Brive-la-Gaillarde and you can hire cars from both the airport and the station.
Conclusion: The Strawberry Festival
There is an entire website dedicated to the strawberry in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne and the strawberry festival. Click here for more information >>>
And for The Best 15 Food Festivals in France check out this article >>>