The taste of rare wild strawberries in Düzce
Wilco Van Herpen
Carefully without squeezing the fragile strawberries, women pick one after another and put them into a basket.I am on the top of a mountain in Düzce. I parked the camper in a place where you can eat trout fish with a nice salad, although there are no fish at the moment. It is night and I am sleeping. Suddenly I wake up due to a bright flash; before I realize it, there is a loud bang. It’s a storm, and it’s starting to approach me. Every second the thunder and lightning are coming closer and before I realize it, I’ve found myself in the heart of a storm. Lightning strikes less than 30 meters from my camper. I’m scared and fascinated at the same time. Scared because what if the lightning strikes my car? Will I burn to death or is the story that rubber tires save you from being electrocuted real? I am fascinated because I’ve never witnessed lightning from this close. It was beautiful to see; those strait beams, forked beams and beams that burned a horizontal path through the midnight sky. I looked out of the window from my camper. It was amazing. Sometimes the interval was no longer than 20 seconds. Finally the storm drifted away. I fell asleep and woke up quite late that morning.
Friendly local woman
While driving down to the village I could see the grey heavy clouds drifting away halfway up the mountains. I was above them and had a great view, but I decided to go on. Descending, I finally got back onto the asphalt road and within just a couple of minutes, I entered Saçmalıpınar village near Düzce.
A friendly, smiling local woman approached me with a rope in her hands, pulling two cows. The cows were beautifully dressed up, with a string made of a variety of different-colored beads, as well as balls made of pink and blue. The scene was so Balkan, what with the colors of the cow in this setting and the woman walking around with her animals.
As soon as I saw her, she disappeared again. I am at the entrance of the village and when I look around, I see two women working in a field. Looking a bit closer at the field, I notice a lot of little red spots on all the plants in that field. Entering the garden, I ask one of the women what they are doing.
Then I realize that they are sitting in a strawberry field. But these are not normal strawberries; these are mountain or wild strawberries. Carefully without squeezing the fragile strawberries, they pick one after another and put them into a basket that they carry with them. When I offer them help, they agree immediately and make me sit down and pick the strawberries one by one. What a nice taste and… so fresh. This is really heaven on earth here. Instead of helping the women fill their baskets, I keep on eating the strawberries. One of the women explains that the strawberries are a rare kind of strawberries. “In the past, everybody would have a field like mine but then slowly, slowly people started to plant different things in their garden. At the end there was nobody anymore who would plant those plants and sell the strawberries, but lately more and more people have been growing mountain strawberries again. The price per kilo is much better than regular strawberries, and there is always a market for them, whether it’s the pharmaceutical industry or the makeup industry; even an ice cream parlor in Düzce wants the strawberries from us,” she says.
A difficult product
“It is a difficult product; within 24 hours people should use these strawberries, otherwise the taste and aroma will disappear. In Düzce there is this little ice cream parlor, and they make mountain strawberry ice cream. It is simply marvelous. The only problem we have is when we sell it to brokers. He gets very good money for our product because foreigners appreciate this product. At the same time they make lipstick from it and use it as a flavor for the medicines. We definitely get less money than the broker in between,” she sighs.
Hearing her complaint, I directly stop eating the strawberries and put them in her basket instead. Within half an hour, we’ve filled up the basket and once she decides that they have done enough work for the day, I say farewell to them. I climb into my camper and slowly drive down to the town. At the ice cream shop, I get out of the car, order my ice cream and enjoy the feeling it gives me; the feeling of the planes of Düzce, the friendly people and the unspoiled nature. I hope soon more and more people will start growing these beautiful strawberries as I take a last bite of my ice cream.