Strawberry Fair

 
 

Larger than life: Mgarr's giant strawberries.

Larger than life: Mgarr's giant strawberries.

“Are you going to Strawberry Fayre?” Yes, I did, but so did around half the Maltese population. Which meant that at 11.30am today I was stuck in crawling traffic for 4km edging towards the site of the fair – Mgarr, northern Malta.

Giving up on the crawl, we parked up within a 15-minute, fast-paced walk of Mgarr church, the epicentre of all things strawberry in Malta this spring. Traffic aside, the views over the surrounding countryside – rural at last this far north in Malta – made it clear why Mgarr is the strawberry capital of the islands. Plateau-topped hills, gently terraced slopes, and the fertile, wide valley with poly-tunnels says this is Malta’s agricultural heartland.

It took some time to actually see a strawberry though. Once in the church forecourt, all we could see was a seething mass of families and the odd, high-flying sign advertising strawberry ice cream or gateaux. Finally, having joined the mêlée, I spotted crate upon crate of huge strawberries being unloaded to refill the stall where large punnets were selling quicker than pastizzi. We dodged the queue and bought our punnet back of van, fresh from the field. These were über-sized strawberries and they tasted as if they were sugar coated, so sweet were they. This, I thought, was worth the traffic and crowds.

Apparently, just three, large strawberries a day is enough for our daily intake of vitamin C. And, while the strawberry pancakes, waffles, ice cream, cheesecake, frappés and smoothies on offer today were mostly calorie laden, the event was trying to celebrate this most loved of potentially, healthy seasonal snacks.

The Ministry for Resources & Rural Affairs sponsored the fair, and was handing out a leaflet on strawberries’ history, cultivation and health aspects. It also documented curious facts on the fruit and had some surprising recipes such as spinach and strawberry salad and strawberry risotto.

Entertainment on the fringes (if you could find space) included traditional music played on a goat-skin bagpipe and a tamburine. For kids there were pony rides and foot-powered scooter races (a really weird activity probably aimed at the under three’s, but being abused by older kids!).

The Strawberry Fair, Malta style, might have lacked the romanticism of fairs of old conjured up by Simon & Garfunkel, but somewhere, deep down, hidden in the heaving crowds, it had a certain charm and quaintness. People joined to celebrate one of Malta’s best agricultural products. No food miles here, just a few slow-food kilometers for most of us.

Photos: Alex Grech

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3 Comments about “Strawberry Fair”

  1. [...] participates in various cultural festivals and events around the islands, such as this spring’s strawberry festival in Mgarr, February’s carnival, various village feasts, and events organised by local councils. [...]

     
  2. [...] Strawberry Fair or Festa Frawli Mgarr holds an annual strawberry fair on the 2nd or 3rd Sunday in April (will confirm for you nearer the time). Unlike the Spanish tomato fest, they don’t throw them around. Savour strawberries in just about every food and drink possible and enjoy a bit of local talent and an excuse for showcasing agricultural crafts while you do. See our write up here of a past festival for what to expect. [...]

     
  3. [...] industry is homespun, not commercial but our native trees have unique health-giving properties. Strawberries celebrated – in Malta, the strawberry season lasts almost all year. Prickly Pears – not eaten as [...]