Sunday, August 8, 2010
It is strawberry season here in Paraguay, obviously as there are people selling strawberries on all the major street corners. That also means that it is time for the Strawberry Festival in Aregua, about 30 minutes outside of the city. Saturday we decided to take a little trip out to celebrate the strawberry season and see where the berries are grown that end up in our kitchen. I have to admit I expected a bit more out of the festival, but I’m willing to mark it down to showing up so late – almost 4:00. Perhaps there would have been more going on if we had gotten there in the middle of the day. Perhaps not though, as the festival seems to go on until the end of strawberry season, so maybe that can’t really do much more than what I saw for a month. The Aregua strawberry festival consisted of approximately 20 tents lined up on the side of road. Each tent seemed to belong to one family or grower and contained baskets of strawberries, whatever strawberry products they produced (jams, jellies, liquor, juice) as well as a selection of sweets (strawberry shortcake, strawberry alphahores, strawberry frozen icicle pops, strawberries and cream in a cup…). I’m sure you get the picture. I’m not going to say that there was a whole lot of variety but if you like the chance to pick what you think are the prettiest looking strawberries then this was a great place to be. With the added benefit of them being cheaper where they are grown than they are once they make it to Asuncion.
We browsed for about three quarters of an hour to the music blaring over the loud speaker before deciding that we had bought all that we wanted (1 ½ kilos of strawberries to take home for me) and that we really wanted to see where the berries were grown before we left. Strawberry fields could be found less than a hundred meters from where the festival was set up, and after gaining permission from an old man sitting by the side of the road we wandered down the dirt path between two sets of fields. Talk about a field with a view! Behind the six or so fields lined up we could catch glimpses of the lake and the palm trees. Making this one of the most picturesque places I’ve been in Paraguay. I was more intrigued by seeing how this fruit grows than the festival itself. Rows of dirt piled up, covered in plastic, with holes for the strawberry plants to grow up through. Dark green leaves next to dark canvas made the ripe red strawberries stand out and cause my mouth to start watering. Barbed wire fences to protect the fields from…cows? People? Homemade sheds along the edges acted as storage for boxes. When I saw one field being harvested by hand I had to be glad that it wasn’t my job and that I could just buy a basket of strawberries that were ready to eat. My back is thankful for that as well. It was interesting to see another side of life in Paraguay and I will eat my fresh, ripe, sweet strawberries with much greater appreciation now.