In 1712, King Louis XIV sent French spy François Amadée Frézier to map the coasts of Chile and Peru. In the market of Concepión, Chile, he encountered a large white fruit he had never seen before: la frutilla, the white strawberry. He was so taken by it that he mapped the location of its cultivation, drew pictures of the plant and fruit, and designated an allotment of fresh water to bring several plants on the two-month journey home. Upon arrival, five plants had survived and numerous botanists worked to encourage fructification with lackluster results. Decades later, in Plougastel, France, the large white variety was crossed with a small red variety and gave birth to the large red strawberries we know and love today.
Enchanted by this story, writer Chloé Batissou and I traced Frézier’s journey and met with strawberry growers in Chile and France. We began our voyage along the Cordillera Nahuelbuta in Chile where la frutilla is still grown on hillsides by families who have been growing them for centuries. From Chile, we went to Plougastel, France where most cultivation has moved under cover, either in ground-based hoop houses (organic) or in conventional greenhouses.
In her life and work, Esha Chiocchio endeavors to combine her primary interests: photography, sustainability, culture and community. She is drawn to the human spirit and passionate about environmental conservation and the preservation of traditional wisdom. With BAs in Anthropology and French, an MA in Sustainable Communities and a tour as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali, West Africa, she has been fortunate to travel the globe for a range of editorial and commercial clients, including National Geographic, Newsweek, and Bonefish Grill. In addition to photography, she is actively involved in sustainability issues and climate education in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she lives with her husband and two children.