Head to Franche-Comté for genuine French frogs
GOURMETS wanting to sample the finest French frogs should head for Franche-Comté where the season for the prized grenouille rousse is under way until June.
The species is uncommon in most of France, but found across this area of eastern France, where local frog breeders hope to create a protected European IGP status for la Rousse de Franche-Comté.
Despite being emblematic of France, fresh French frog is hard to come by these days – 99% of frogs eaten in France come from eastern Europe or north Africa (live or frozen) or from Asia in the form of frozen legs. Around 4,000 tonnes a year of frog meat is imported frozen and 700 tonnes a year fresh.
Commercial hunting of frogs is banned in France since 1980, though frogs may be cuillies (‘picked’) or péchées (‘fished’) in small quantities for personal use. They are less common than formerly, due to pesticides, wetlands being drained for agriculture and a decrease in the insects they eat.
However in Franche-Comté, in particular, there are some 218 ranaculteurs – small-scale frog breeders, who raise them for sale, mostly to restaurants or fishmongers in their local area.
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France also has one so-called ‘industrial’ scale frog breeder (producing around 10 tonnes a year), in the nearby department of Drôme, who nonetheless sells his frogs around €20-30/kg compared to around €10/kg for frozen Turkish, Egyptian or Albanian frogs. The site uses a special breed of frog developed to eat fish food instead of the live flies that frogs usually eat.
Large-scale production is also difficult due to the frogs needing warmed water in their tanks – the site in the Drôme has a deal on cheap heating from a nearby nuclear power plant.
Red Franche-Comté frog is especially appreciated cooked with plenty of butter and parsley.
As of this year there is a new tougher law in place against passing off other frog meat as being rousse de Franche-Comté: the fine has been increased from €15,000 to €150,000.
(Image: frogs legs in parsley)