Switzerland’s Scrumptious Surprises

Savor the complexity of authentic Swiss herb and mushroom combinations.

| October/November 2003



Switzerland, with its 40 to 60 inches of annual rainfall, not only provides lush grass for the cows that produce milk for its famous cheese and chocolate, but it also has ideal conditions for growing another beloved product — mushrooms. In fact, Switzerland is the mushroom capital of the world, with 34 types of edible mushrooms, including rare and expensive truffles. In a recent tour of Switzerland, I sampled all these culinary delights, prepared the Swiss way and flavored with the herbs that grow in this region.

Shortly after arriving in Fribourg, photographer Thomas Walsh and I dine on one of Switzerland’s specialties: fondue. This is no ordinary fondue, but a sumptuous herb fondue. Our host, Sabine Moser, from the Swiss Tourism Board, explains that a Fribourg fondue, called moitié-moitié (or half-and-half), consists of half Gruyère and half a local cheese, Vacherin Fribourgeois. I spear a piece of fresh baguette with a long fondue fork, dip it into the bubbling cheeses and bite into an amazing mélange of flavors. Herbs bring out and complement the sweet, strong flavor of the cheese without overwhelming it.

The Gruyère cheese-producing district surrounds the castle of the former Counts of Gruyères, feudal lords of Savoy from the 11th to the mid-16th century. Moser describes the Vacherin as softer and more yellow than Gruyère.

Marc Berchtold, son of the owners of the family-run Walliser Spycher hotel in Riederalp, says of the area’s cheese producers: “They export the best cheese and keep the second-quality cheese here. If you want to eat a really high-quality Gruyère, you’ll find the best in the United States and other foreign countries.”

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