Sunday, November 29, 2009

Chiloe’s Giant Garlic/Ajo Chilote

The island of Chiloe, in southern Chile, has never been known as an agricultural paradise.   Writing in the 1890s, Carlos de Beranger explained:

This province is not one of the most fertile and one speculates that the reasons are found in part in the climate and soil, but neither is it cultivated as it should be as they do not know the use of the plow; nor is it easy to introduce it because the ancient customs are held with conviction.  Neglect also contributes to the slight abundance, because the crops are limited to the absolutely necessary, and they never are enough.  … Never the less the potato harvest is numerous and it would be very abundant if they were to apply themselves to work and to plant more. [1]

Nor was Charles Darwin especially enchanted with the island when he visited in 1834-5.

I do not suppose any part of the world is so rainy as the Island of Chiloe.  …In winter the climate is detestable and is summer it is only a little better. I should think that there are few parts of the world, within the temperate regions, where so much rain falls. The winds are very boisterous and the sky almost always clouded:  to have a week of fine weather is something wonderful. [2]

My experiences in Chiloe, a total of about three weeks in the summers of 2005, ‘07 and ’08, were very different: beautiful weather with almost no rain, “something wonderful,” but perhaps I was just lucky. 

At any rate, a little background may be useful.  Chiloe is at the southern end of Chile’s central valley, where it drops below sea level and the uplands become an archipelago reaching south another 1000 miles or so.  Aboriginal Chiloé had a population of mobile, nonagricultural, canoe Indians, the Chono; and also a population of fishers and potato cultivators, the Huilliché—a Mapuche culture.  The Spanish arrived in 1567, the Jesuits set up missions to Christianize the Indians, and the island has developed more or less in isolation from the rest of Chile and the world ever since.  A mestizo culture with an involved mythology, and music reminiscent of the Celts’ developed around potato cultivation, sheep raising, fishing and shellfish gathering. The island is still largely rural and traditional, but tourism is increasingly important as Chiloe’s wooden churches, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its temperate rain forest draw lots of Chilean and international tourists.

 And the garlic?
In spite of its climate and soils, Chiloé produces some of the world’s best potatoes and is the origin of most potato varieties cultivated in Europe and North America.  And it has Ajo chilote, Chiloé  garlic (AKA great headed garlic or elephant garlic). Individual heads may weigh up to a pound. That it is botanically in the leek family (Allium ampeloprasum) rather than being a true garlic Allium sativum) is of little consequence.  It tastes like garlic, though it is milder and is claimed not to give you garlic breath. It can be used where ever you would use regular garlic, but is especially good for dishes that should have a rich sweet garlic taste, with little or no “bite”  like garlic mashed potatoes, roast garlic, garlic chicken, etc.


 Photo: Canal 13


Not much is known about the origins of great headed garlic. Its Chilean promoters say it has been “present in the province of Chiloé since time immemorial, and its cultivation has always been associated with the island.”[3]  Perhaps, if “immemorial” means  “as long as anyone remembers,” but it is not native.  Wild strains of Allium ampeloprasum¸ the ancestor of elephant garlic and leeks, are native to the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East.  In its region of origin it is cultivated in North West India, southern Russia and Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Former Yugoslavia, Greece, Italy, Romania, France, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom  and has been introduced in the US, and of course, in Chile.[4] 

In the US:
Giant or elephant garlic was re-discovered in 1941 by an American nurseryman, Jim Nicholls, who found it growing wild in the gardens of an abandoned settlement called Scio in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Scio had been colonized by immigrants from the eastern Balkans in the 1860s. The "herb", as it was regarded locally, was called Scio's Giant Garlic.  Nicholls collected about 12 lbs of it and bred selectively from the larger cloves. Over a period of twelve years he established a large, very hardy, disease free strain which he started selling commercially in 1953, having registered the name 'Elephant Garlic'.[5]

But how and when it got to Chile is unknown.  The earliest mention I found was in a report of Chiloe’s  Intendente (administrator) Hurtado in 1783, 200 or so years after colonization.  He reported production of 160 fanegas (around 19, 500 lbs.) of garlic[6] that year, around ¾ lb. per person for the island’s population of about 26,000.[7]

What happened between 1567 and 1783 that could explain the introduction of this unusual crop?  Could ajo chiloté have come with the Spanish colonists?  The original Spanish encomienderos (conquistadors, given grants of land and Indians to serve them) were mainly from Galicia—a Spanish province known for its great fondness for garlic.  Did giant garlic come to the new world with the Galicians, and take root only in Chiloe?  Seems unlikely …but so do all the other alternatives.

Ajo Chilote recipes


When I asked a market vender in Chiloé what dishes she cooked with garlic, she replied “Everything!”  But there isn’t much garlic Chiloé restaurant cooking and the classic chilote dishes, curanto (like a clam bake) and roast lamb on a spit include no garlic.  But some traditional Chilote recipes use ajo chilote.  Here are three:

Cocimiento Chilote  by Omega


4 lbs clams
4 lbs mussels
6 chicken thighs
6 lbs pork ribs
2 lbs sausages
2 lbs potatoes
Onions
Green and red bell peppers
Chili or Merkén
White wine (inexpensive)
Chiloe garlic to taste
Oregano, Cumin


Sauté onions, garlic and peppers in a large pot and add the pieces of chicken. Brown lightly and then add the pork ribs (in pieces), the sausages, the shellfish (with clean shells) and the potatoes and season with cumin, oregano, merkén, pepper and salt. Add wine a little at a time and simmer for an hour. Serve in of earthenware bowls (greda) to hold the heat.


Cancato Chilote (Chiloe stuffed fish)


                              
This dish was traditionally made with sierra, as in the photo, but is now frequently made with salmon. 
                                                                             
                                                                                                 
        1 Sierra or salmon, 6-8 lbs.
        1 Chorizo or other sausage
        2 Lemons, one sliced, one juiced
        2 Onions, sliced
        2 Tomatoes, sliced
        ½ lb. mild cheese in slices
        ½ cup white wine
        1 clove Chiloe garlic, sliced
         Salt and pepper
         Vegetable oil


Clean fish, remove head, tail and fins and split along the spine without cutting through the back and open like a book. Remove spine and all other bones. Season both sides with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Sauté onion and garlic in vegetable oil until softened. Layer fish with onions and garlic, tomato, cheese, chorizo, and lemon slices.  Tie and place on double thickness of aluminum foil. Pour wine over fish, wrap securely in foil and grill over medium charcoal fire (or in 425° F. oven) for 10 minutes per inch of thickness or until the center reaches 140° F.  


Cazuela de Espinazo de Cordero con Cochayuyo

(Lamb backbone cazuela with alga)


You may have to be in Chile to make this one.  The recipe comes directly from Chiloe Island.com, in English.


3 lbs of mutton backbone [or lamb with bones]
Chiloé Garlic
Oregano, chopped parsley
2 carrots
1 bowl of fresh yellow peas
1 bowl of chopped green beans
½ cup of rice
12 potatoes
Small bunch of chopped seaweed [Cochayuyo]


Fry the meat with salt and garlic then add 4 liters of boiling water. Add and boil all the remaining ingredients. Before serving sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Garlic goes Global

Chile’s Institute for Agricultural Development (Instituto de Desarrollo Agropecuario, INDAP) has encouraged and sponsored development of export markets for a number of traditional products of rural Chile, now including garlic paste from Chiloé. It is not marketed in Chile, where the taste for garlic is “moderate” (see “Do Chileans eat chili?”), but in areas such as New York, Barcelona and Toronto “where consumption is great.”[8]  Here is a little of the publicity of one of the producers, Sabor Chilote (Chiloe Taste): 









Chiloe Garlic Pastes

The exotic artisanal products of “Sabor Chilote” originate in the magic and mythic Island of Chiloé. Gateway to Patagonia in the south Pacific, this refuge of native forests delivers to Ajo Chilote all its purity, aroma, and unique soft gingery flavor, with a wide range of uses in cold and hot dishes.

Uses:

“Chiloe garlic and olive paste,” ideal to serve as a table spreads, in salad dressings and to improve cocktail appetizers.

“Chiloe Pure Garlic Paste,” especially to season all types of meats, fish, salads and soups.

“Spicy Chiloé Garlic Paste – Merkén,” is an exquisite option to give flavor to your stews and home made dishes, to season or accompany with a balanced spiciness that will improve all your recipes.

“Special Recipe Chiloé Garlic Paste - Pebre” ideal to accompany vegetables and grilled meats, add personality to cold sauces and/or accompany cold or hot dishes. It is an indispensible product for the traditional cuisine.

“Chiloé Garlic Paste-Honey”, especially for pork, sauces, vegetables, sweet and sour dishes, and dough.

Properties

Chiloé Garlic or “Ajo Blandino” (Allium ampeloprasum), is a garlic known for its positive effects of health, traditionally used to control blood pressure and heart disease, as an antibiotic to improve bronchitis and colds, and accordion to the oldest, it is good for picking up the sexual pace.




[1] Urbina Burgos, Rodolfo.  1983.  La Periferia Meridional Indiana: Chiloé en el Siglo XVIII.  Valparaíso, Chile: Ediciones Universitarias de Valparaíso. P. 39 On line at http://www.memoriachilena.cl/temas/documento_detalle.asp?id=MC0008626
[2] Wilson, Mary F. & Juan J. Armesto.  1996. The natural history of Chiloé: on Darwin’s trail. Revista Chilena de Historia Natural 69:149-161. on line at http://rchn.biologiachile.cl/pdfs/1996/2/Willson_&_Armesto_1996.pdf
[3] Anonymous. 2006.  “Ajo chilote certificado para todos” Chile Potencia Alimentaria. In line at http://www.chilepotenciaalimentaria.cl/content/view/1823/Ajo-chilote-certificado-para-todos.html#content-top.
[4] Hanet, Peter.  1991.  Some lesser-known culinary alliums.  Herbalist 57:37-51. and TaxonAllium ampeloprasum L. var. ampeloprasum.  Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). on line at http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?400394
[5] Simpson, Colin.   Garlic and Elephant Garlic.  National Vegtable Society.  On line at http://www.nvsuk.org.uk/growing_show_vegetables_1/garlic_elephant_1.php
[6] Relacion Jiografica  The account says only “garlic;” I am assuming that it is elephant garlic.
[7] Chiloé y los Chilotes.  Estimates for US annual garlic consumption were 2.6 lbs. per person in 2004, Korea’s consumption is estimated at 22 lbs.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Chilean Corn (Choclo Chileno)

On August 27, 1540 in the valley of the Copiapó River some 500 miles north of the eventual location of Santiago, Pedro de Valdivia took possession of Chile in the name of the King of Spain. It was a favorable spot:




In this valley…. maize stalks grow larger and thicker than I have ever seen in any other province through which I have traveled and I have never seen any yield as well as in this valley, because in the other provinces each stalk yields two or three ears, and here four or five.  It is very good maize. (Jerónimo de Vivar, 1558)[1]
From there in the Atacama Desert south 1,200 miles, to the rainy Island of Chiloe, the native people of Chile cultivated maize (or corn, Zea mays;  choclos in Chilean Spanish).  It was the major crop and staple food for 1000 miles or so, and a secondary crop to potatoes in the far south.

Central Chile has a Mediterranean climate, with warm dry summers and mild winters with moderate rains, increasing to the south.  But from October through February, the growing season for corn, Santiago receives only about an inch (30 mm) of rain in most years; far too little for maize.  But the indigenous Mapuche, or their predecessors, developed irrigation. Jesuit Juan Ignacio Molina, writing in 1782, said:
[The native Chileans] had ….in many parts of the country, aqueducts for watering their fields, which were constructed with great skill. Among these, the canal which, for the space of many miles, borders the rough skirts of the mountains in the vicinity of the Capital, and waters the land to the northward of the city, is particularly remarkable for its extent and solidity.[2]
Planting began in September or October and after two to four irrigations, harvest proceeded as needed from the arrival of the first green corn in December though April or May.  Further south, where there is adequate summer rain but a shorter growing season, maize was planted in October and was harvested in January and February, before frosts began in April.[3]  Molina, the Jesuit quoted above, provides the best early discussion of Mapuche maize:
The Chileans call [maize] hua and believe that they have had it since before their arrival in the country. Their primitive cultivation has produced many varieties, among which they especially distinguish:  cujumpe-hua or black maize, quely-hua, or red maize; pijima, or variegated maize; callquintu or black and white maize; gylil or flour maize; and mallehua or little white maize. All these varieties have great success in Chile, commonly producing three or four large, perfectly filled ears.
The Chileans use a great deal of this maize, making various foods among which they are especially fond of one which they call Huminta . These are made with fresh tender maize kernels, ground between two smooth stones, as cacao is prepared by chocolate makers. The resulting milky paste, seasoned with lard, salt or sugar, according to individual taste, is divided into small pieces each of which is wrapped in two of the tender shucks of the maize ear, and tied into a small packet, are cooked in boiling water.  With this same dough they make crust for pies and various kinds of cookies.
When the maize is ripe, they prepare it for winter in two ways:  they give it a light cooking then calling it chuchoca or cunarquen, or they leave it uncooked.  With the first, after crushing it, they make soups and with the other a type of very tasty beer [chicha].  They also make it into flour, but before milling it they toast it in a sand bath.  For this they use another species or variety of maize, called curahua, “rock maize,” whose grains are smaller. Upon cracking in the sand bath the flour doubles in volume, yielding a whiter and more digestible flour.  This flour dissolved in cool or hot water with and sugar or honey, becomes the ulpo, and chedcan that rural Araucanians [Mapuche] drink regularly, in place of coffee.[4]
 
This last variety of corn, curahua or cuaragua, an ancient popcorn variety originating in Peru, continues to be cultivated in Chile, or did as of 1961 when David Timothy and his colleagues collected the samples to the right.[5] 




















The preparation methods Molina discussed also continue to be popular.  Humitas are in great demand throughout the summer [see “Humitas, Chilean Tamales”], and the same dough is used for today’s pastel de choclo, corn pie. The corn used for humitas, called choclo humero,  is very large, with 20 or more rows of kernels and, according to “Races of  Maize in Chile” is probably descended from a cross between native maize and dent corn introduced from the United States in the 19th century.[6]

Of course green corn was not used solely for humitas. In Life and Customs of the Araucarias in the Second Half of the  XIX Century, Mapuche chief Pascual Coña, explains:
Some ears of green corn are harvested for eating.  They are prepared in a great variety of ways.  Sometimes they remove the husks from the ear—the ear separated from the plant they call the choclo. They put them on the fire to roast and when cooked on one side they turn them.  Completely roasted they are eaten and called roasted choclo. Other times they bury the ear, covered with its husks, in the ashes.  When it is well cooked they take them out, remove the husk and eat them.  These are called buried chocols. They also boil the husked ears in a pot and eat them as-is; these are called boiled choclos. Finally they boil them in the husks and dry them afterwards. In this state they are called chuchoca. Dry they are shelled and ground on the stone.  The ground dough, called locro, is added to various stewed dishes.[7]

Chuchoca

As Coña explains, Chuchoca is corn meal or flour ground from green corn, at or just beyond the milk stage, which has been boiled (or baked in an earth oven) and dried.   This allows cornmeal to be made from green corn, important in areas such as south central Chile with short growing seasons where the corn may not mature before first frost.[8] 

Chuchoca continues to be popular in Chilean cuisine, and is widely available. It is used as a thickener in pork and poultry cazuela, and in dishes such as potatoes and squash with cuchoca, below.




















And, although not a part of traditional Chilean cuisine, chuchoca can be used in place of cornmeal or polenta.  I use it in multigrain breads, and American southern-style cornbread baked in a cast iron skillet. My Chilean family likes it, although they find it a bit strange.  In the spirit of intercultural interchange, here is the recipe, in Spanish and English:



Pan de chuchoca

2 tasas chuchoca
1 cucharadita bicarbonato de soda
1 cucharadita sal
2 huevos
1 envase yogurt natural (170 gm)
230 cc leche
1-2 cucharadas mantiquilla o grasa de tocino

Calentar el horno a 210°C/425° F. Echar la mantequilla o grasa en una fuente de horno de 1 lt para calentar. Mezclar los ingredientes secos en un bowl y echar los ingredientes líquidos.  Mezclar bien y colocar en la fuente caliente.  Hornear unos 20 minutes hasta que el pan este firme.  Servir con mantiquilla y miel. 

Chuchoca Bread

2 cups chuchoca
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon SALT
2 eggs
1 container plain yogurt (170 gm/6 oz.)
1 cup milk
1-2 T butter or bacon fat

Heat oven to 210°C/425° F.  Put butter or fat in 1 qt. oven proof Pyrex dish or cast iron skillet and place in oven to heat.  Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and add liquid ingredients. Mix well and pour into hot dish or skillet. Bake about 20 minutes or until the bread is firm. Serve with butter and honey.

.

 Chuchoca bread

Sweet Corn [9]

Sweet corn, choclo Americano, is also popular in Chile.  In my Chilean family corn on the cob is eaten with butter as a first course.  Off the cob it is usually eaten cold as a salad. 






 A typical Chilean ensalada surtida, mixed salad.



 












 One of the classic first courses in Chilean cuisine is a tomato stuffed with a corn salad.









[1] Vivar, Jeronimo de.  1558. Crónica y relación copiosa y verdadera de los reinos de Chile. Santiago:  Fondo histórico y bibliografico. On line at http://www.artehistoria.jcyl.es/cronicas/contextos/10079.htm
[2]J. Ignatius (Juan Ignatio) Molina.  1808. (Original 1782)  The Geographical, Natural and Civil History of Chili. Vol. II  Milddetown, ConnecticutI. Riley. Translated by an American Gentleman (R. Alsop). p. 14.  On line at http://www.archive.org/details/geographicalnat00boydgoog
[3]Timothy, David H., Bertulfo Pena V. & Ricardo Ramirez E. 1961 Races of  Maize in Chile. Publication 847. National Academy of Sciences National
Research Council,  Washington, D. C. on line at http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNADQ458.pdf
[4] Molina, Juan Ignacio.  1987. Ensayo sobre la historia natural de Chile: Bolonia 1810. Primera traducción del original italiano, prólogo y notas del Prof. Dr. Rodolfo Jaramillo.  Santiago :  Eds. Maule. On line at http://www.memoriachilena.cl/temas/documento_detalle.asp?id=MC0002868
[5] Timothy, op. cit. photo, p. 52
[6] Ibid.
[7] Wilhelm de Moesbach, P. Ernesto. 1930 Vida y costumbres de los indígenas araucanos de las segunda mitad del siglo XIX.  Santiago: Imprenta Cervantes P. 144.  My translation of the Spanish translation from Mapudungun.  On line at  http://www.memoriachilena.cl/archivos2/pdfs/MC0008879.pdf
[8] A similar process is followed in New Mexico, where growing season can also be short, for the preparation of chicos although chicos are not ground into meal burt are cooked whole, usually with beans.  See. Chicos Slow Food USA, on line at http://www.slowfoodusa.org/index.php/programs/ark_product_detail/chicos/







[9] “Sweet corn” refers to the typical US garden and supermarket corn, usually eaten “on the cob.” It is different from other maize varieties in having a much higher sugar content.  Traditional maize varieties, used for corn meal and animal feeds, are called “field corn” in the US


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Chilean strawberries

[In Chile] one generally does not buy fruit, rather one is readily allowed to enter the orchards and eat all you wish. Only what are called “frutillas” [strawberries], and in Italy frauli, are sold, even though they grow wild and in the country I have seen full leagues of strawberries, growing of their own accord, those who cultivate them make a lot of money. They are very different that those that I have seen here in Rome, both in color and in flavor, and in quantity because they grow as big as pears, and although they are usually red, they are, in Concepción, white and yellow.  (Padre Alonso de Ovalle, Historia Relación del Reyno de Chile, 1646)[1]

One of the many pleasures of living in Chile is that strawberries arrive in the farmers’ markets in mid October and remain until March, and they are, in the Chilean phrase, “the three Bs:” bueno, bonito y barato (good, pretty and cheap-presently $650-750 CLP/kg, $.60 US/lb)—even if they are not "as big as pears.”



Strawberries (Fragaria chiloensis) have been a Chilean pleasure for a long time.  They grew wild in great abundance and were domesticated around 1300 AD by the ancestors of the Mapuche, south central Chile’s indigenous people.[2]  When the Spanish arrived they quickly became acquainted with Chilean strawberries and were impressed enough to take them back to Peru.  In his Commentarios Reales de los Incas, Garcilazo de la Vega, son of a Spanish conquistador and an Inca princess, described the fruits of Peru.

…he included in his descriptions a fruit called the Chili, which he thought probably had come to Cuzco in 1557, six years after Valdivia's conquest [of Chile]. According to him, this pleasant-tasting fruit bore small seeds on its surface.... the Chili was rather long and heart-shaped instead of round, and the plant grew on low bushes which crept along the ground. Botanists are certain that de la Vega was describing the strawberry. As he was unable to give the fruit a Peruvian name, he called it instead the "Chili," thus supporting the evidence that the species was F. chiloensis, the strawberry of the Mapuche and Huilliche Indians.[3]

Fortunately, for those already confused about Chile and chili, the name chili didn’t stick, and for some reason neither the traditional Spanish word “fresa” (strawberry) nor the Mapuche kelleñ were used:  frutilla, literally “little fruit,” became, and remains, Chilean for “strawberry.”

Mapuche strawberries
Fragaria chiloensis [4]     
    
We know little about how the Mapuche grew and used strawberries, but a young Spanish soldier, Francisco Núñez de Pineda y Bascuñán, who was a Mapuche captive for 6 months in 1622 (see Feasting with the Enemy), and wrote an account of his captivity many years later, mentions them frequently.

…they brought me a plate of good size of fresh cultivated strawberries, and without exaggeration some were so large they could not be finished in two bites.  They devote even more care to their strawberry beds than we give to vineyards because they dry great quantities of them for their chicha.[5]

Chicha, wine or cider fermented from grains or fruits, was an important in all Mapuche social occasions.   And while maize chicha was the most important, fruit chichas, and especially strawberry chicha, were greatly appreciated by the young Francisco.

Even though we had eaten a very good supper, they brought me a pitcher of chicha of dried strawberries, clear, tasty and spicy, the best that they have. ….We ate happily and with pleasure because they toasted us with strawberry chicha, which for me was the best present they could give.[6]

Strawberry chicha was produced through spontaneous fermentation of fruit, mashed with water, although when available the lees of a previous batch were added to speed up the process.  The time necessary for production varied with the temperature and the sugar content of the fruit and it probably yielded 3 to 7% alcohol.[7]  


The Mapuches’ domesticated strawberries were larger than the wild varieties, and tended to be pink or white, rather than red.  Louis Feuillee, a Catholic priest, provided a description of the Concepción strawberries he saw in 1709.

Several fruits, like pears, apples, strawberries, etc. were ripe. For dessert we were served some strawberries of a marvelous taste, whose size equaled that of our largest nuts. Their color is a pale white. They are prepared in the same manner as we fix them in Europe, and, although they have neither the color nor the taste of ours, they do not lack excellence.[8]

In the 1830s French botanist Claudio Gay traveled throughout Chile and later wrote extensively about Chilean natural history.  In his Agricultura he discussed the Chilean strawberry:

The frutilla or Chilean strawberry, called quelighen [kelleñ ] by the Araucanians, grows spontaneously in Chile, especially in the south where they are very abundant.   They are also cultivated in gardens and orchards, where they frequently are the size a walnut. They are rosy pink, but in cultivation they are usually white, especially in the north where their natural color is maintained only the first year.  They are the first fruit eaten in spring and by December vendors on horses and mules bring great baskets and sell them in the streets at very low prices.  It is also the custom to make festive trips to rural gardens in the countryside to eat them, especially to the little town of Renca, near Santiago, long famous for strawberries. [9]

These Mapuche strawberries are still cultivated in Chile, though no longer in Renca, and on a much smaller scale than the common commercial varieties.  In the community of Purén, north west of Temuco, some 25 small scale growers annually produce some 16,000 kg. with great success:

We are in full harvest and have great demand for the product. The prices are very good; here in this zone were are selling at 5 thousand pesos a kilo [$4.50 US/lb.] and in other regions we have been paid up to 7 thousand a kilo” said grower, Aurelio Carvajal.[10]

White strawberries of Purén. The Purén Strawberry Festival is in mid February. 

Origins of the modern strawberry

As George Darrow explains in The Strawberry: History, Breeding, and Physiology, Amédée François Frézier, a French engineer and Lieutenant Colonel of the French Army Intelligence Corps, was sent to Chile in 1712 as a spy with orders to “make Hydrographical Observations for the Use of Mariners, and for the Correction of the Charts, and also to take exact Plans of the most considerable Ports and fortresses along the Coasts” while passing himself off as a merchant captain.  On his journeys he visited Concepción, where he encountered the Mapuches’ strawberries:

….they plant whole Fields, with a Sort of Strawberry Rushes, differing from ours, in that the Leaves are rounder, thicker and more downy. The fruit is generally as big as a Walnut, and sometimes as a Hen's Egg, of a whitish Red, and somewhat less delicious of taste than our Wood Strawberries. I have given some Plants of them to Monsieur de Jussieu, for the King's Garden, where Care will be taken to bring them to bear. Besides these, there is plenty in the Woods of our European Kind. And in Short, all manner of Garden-Product among us, grow there plentifully, and almost without trouble.[11]

Strawberries were, of course, known in Europe, which had wild “wood strawberries,” under cultivation in France since 1300.  And specimens of the wild North American strawberry, F. virginiana, had been introduced in the 1600s, so the Chilean strawberries were added to botanical gardens where other varieties already existed.  But F. chiloensis almost never set fruit.   Frézier had, unknowingly, brought only female plants. 

So Chilean strawberries remained an exotic novelty in European gardens into the 1750, when it was discovered that by planting F. virginiana near by, strawberries were produced, some measuring 7½ inches in circumference. Thus was born the modern hybrid strawberry, a cross between F. chiloensis and F. virginiana, called F. ananassa or Fragaria × ananassa.


6 kg. of strawberries on the way to becoming preserves


Eating Chilean strawberries

While not among the top 20 world strawberry producers, Chile is a significant exporter of strawberries, second after Mexico in providing 7% of US strawberry imports in 2004[12] and 7th worldwide as an exporter of frozen strawberries in 2005.



But most Chilean strawberries are sold fresh, within the domestic market, so what do Chileans do with their strawberries?  Nothing especially unusual, but here are a couple of Chilean strawberry recipes you may find interesting.



   
And Kuchen de Frutillas, Strawberry Kuchen (a recipe in English)







[1] Padre Alfonso de Ovalle in Historica relacion del Reyno de Chile y de las missiones y ministerios que exercita en él la Compañía de Jesus, as quoted in Correa Vergara, Luis. 1938. Agricultura Chilena, tomo II. Santiago:  Imprenta Nascimenta. p. 218
[2] Dauben, Hugh. 2003. British Columbia’s Pacific Coast Beach Strawberry- Fragaria chiloensis. Davidsonia 14:1 p. 5-11.  on line at http://www.davidsonia.org/fragaria_chiloensis.
[3] Darrow, George McMillan. 1966. The Strawberry: History, Breeding, and Physiology.  New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Chapt. 4  on line at http://www.nal.usda.gov/pgdic/Strawberry/book/bokfour.htm
[4]Ibid.  Plate 4-3
[5] Núñez de Pineda y Bascuñán, Francisco, 1608-1680. 2001. El cautiverio feliz, Tomo dos; edición crítica de Mario Ferreccio Podestá y Raïssa Kordić  Riquelme. Santiago de Chile:  Seminario de Filología Hispánica, Facultad de Filosofía y Humanidades, Universidad de Chile, p. 917. on line at http://books.google.cl/books?id=VOrKaGk48twC&printsec=frontcover&hl=en#v=onepage&q=&f=false
[6] Pardo B, Oriana. 2004. Las Chichas en el Chile Precolombino.  Chloris Chilensis: Revista Chilena de Flora y vegetación.  Año7:2. on line at http://www.chlorischile.cl/chichas/chichas.htm
[7] Ibid.
[8] Darrow, Op sit. Chapt. 4
[9]  Gay, Claudio. 1862-1865.  Agricultura, Tomo 2. París: En casa del autor; Chile: Museo de Historia Natural de Santiago, p. 13. on line at http://www.memoriachilena.cl/temas/documento_detalle.asp?id=MC0002688
[10] Frutilla Blanca de Purén: un negocio que cada día se ve más rentable para La Araucanía. El Austral. Dec. 28, 2008. on line at http://www.renacerdeangol.cl/prontus4_noticias/site/artic/20081228/pags/20081228000302.html
[11] Darrow, op cit. Chapt. 3 from the English translation of Frézier's book.
[12] Boriss, Hayley, et al. 2006.  Commodity Profile: Strawberries. Agricultural Issues Center
University of California.  On line at http://aic.ucdavis.edu/profiles/Strawberries-2006.pdf