If you have been reading this blog for a while, you would know that I have a weakness for frais de bois, or little ‘wild’ strawberries, which you can get in some places in North America and Europe, and more reliably in France and Italy at the right time of year. I have done posts on them before, here and here. So imagine to my utter surprise, when on our first night in Bacolod, we were presented with a plastic bag containing about a kilo of these goodies. After the slight heart palpitations, I can say I was truly shocked! Wow. I have no idea how these berries first made it to the lush foothills of Mt. Kanlaon, but I would suspect that they first came as cultivated varieties decades ago and have since localized or adapted to the weather by turning back to their wilder roots… These were small, tart and incredibly flavorful. Fantastic find, if you ask me. But locals were practically nonplussed…
My host had asked some friends, local residents and organic farmers (will feature them separately), to bring over whatever unusual produce they could gather up, and this was only one of a dozen goodies that they brought our way that evening. These particular berries came from a nearly 200 hectare totally organic cooperative/farm in Barangay Yubo, La Carlotta, in the foothills of Mt. Kanlaon. They arrived with their vines still attached. A few berries were squished from being transported on foot (an hour’s walk!) to the nearest vehicle pick-up point then driven into town, roughly an hour away. My immediate reaction after tasting these gems?
Wild strawberry preserves. Rich creamy ice cream speckled with wild strawberries. Desserts studded with berries. Wow! And at roughly PHP100 a kilo at the source, this was an absolute STEAL. With proper packing and transport, I am certain I could find eager “homes” for these berries in Manila (shops, restaurants and private buyers). Gosh, if only we had more efficient distribution systems for produce in this country, there are just so many amazing ingredients available in the far corners of the archipelago!
These berries were tarter than their European relatives, but tart can be good for certain uses. And while our guests thought we were on crack since we were so enthusiastic by this first find, my host immediately plonked a few berries into UHT whipping cream (the only thing at hand), added a little sugar and we all had a few… YUM.