>Foire au gras and pruning the olive tree


The foire au gras this weekend in Roujan is the beginning of the Christmas season.  People here don’t send cards, give as many presents or shop as determinedly as those in other countries, but food, as always, is important.  The foire au gras (which translates into English as ‘fat fair’, but this doesn’t sound so good), is a chance to buy foie gras, cured duck breast, whole ducks, wine, cured sausages …. all the delicious foods that are part of Christmas meals in this area, and all directly from the producers.

DSC00099-1 DSC00092

The fair is held in the village hall and sports hall, a very modern setting for a traditional event.  Outside there were cheese, shellfish and vegetables stalls and amusements for children.  Inside there were rows of craft stalls and, most importantly, the wine and food producers’ stands.

DSC00097 DSC00095

We bought a duck and some foie gras from M. Gaubert of Camp Grand in the Aveyron, who was eager to talk about his produce and give advice about cooking and serving it.  We also tasted for the first time (and bought) some excellent wines from Domaine Bonian at nearby Pouzolles.  Some say that this is an expensive way to buy these products, but I would much prefer to pay a little extra and buy from the producers, talk to them and taste, rather than buying anonymously in a supermarket.

Some people, too, I know, have reservations about foie gras production, but I think that when it is properly produced it is not cruel, unlike the mass-produced battery-farmed chicken, eggs and pork which are eaten by so many.

Pruning the olive tree

A couple of weeks ago we harvested the olives from the older and slightly larger of our two olive trees.   This tree was one we bought without thinking too much about it, soon after we bought the garden, as we wanted to plant one as soon as possible.  It has always been rather straggly and was in need of a good prune, which I did this morning.  The aim when pruning olive trees is to have space in the centre with the branches spreading outwards and this is what I’ve tried to do.

DSC00125 Before pruning . . . DSC00127

. . . and after.

Pruning like this may mean a smaller crop next year, but it should make a better shaped tree for the future.

DSC00135 I’ve taken the fresher, newer leaves to dry because I want to try olive leaf tea.  The other branches will make a good start for the fire the next time we light the barbecue.

Today’s harvest

DSC00129 Tiny parsnips and carrots (some of which were given to us by our neighbours in exchange for some parsnips, which they’d never tried before), the last of the aubergines and, hiding behind the bowl, some radishes.  We’re also picking salad leaves almost every day now.



DSC00133 And what is this doing here?  Anemones aren’t supposed to flower until the spring, but this one seems to have been fooled by the warm weather we’ve been having lately.

>Warm enough for a lizard / Assez chaud pour un lézard


lizard_1 Suddenly it’s spring and the lizards are out in the sun …


Tout à coup, c’est le printemps et les lézards sortent au soleil …



Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

Last month I was away on the 15th so I missed it, and we didn’t have many blooms in the garden anyway.  This month is much more colourful:

Le mois dernier je n’étais pas chez moi le 15, et il n’y avait pas des fleurs au jardin.  Aujourd’hui il y a beaucoup plus de couleur:

anemones …
apricot blossom_1_1
apricot blossom / fleurs d’abricotier …
aubretia …
daffodils / les narcisses ….
grape hyacinth1_1_1_1
and grape hyacinths / et les muscaris.
grape hyacinth2_1_1_1

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Moules gratinées

On Friday at an otherwise excellent restaurant in Agde, I ordered moules gratinées and was shocked to find when they arrived that they were huge, green-shelled creatures which I knew don’t grow near here.  I asked the waiter and he said that they came from New Zealand!  Although he added that they used local mussels for moules marinières.  Agde is only about 10 km from the nearest mussel beds in the Bassin de Thau.  These New Zealand mussels had suffered from their long journey and months in the freezer – they were tough and tasteless.  How sad, because apart from this the food was good at this family-run restaurant on the quayside, where the woman chef came to our table and explained her ratatouille recipe in great detail – and it was the best ratatouille we’d ever had in a restaurant, as good as we make at home!

Vendredi j’ai commandé des moules gratinées dans un restaurant à Agde et j’ai été étonnée de trouver qu’elles sont des grandes moules au coquilles vertes qui ne viennent pas d’ici.  Elles sont venues de la Nouvelle-Zélande.  Agde n’est que 10 kilometres du Bassin de Thau.  Cettes moules ont souffert de leur voyage long et les mois qu’elles ont passé au congelateur.

At home tonight, I made moules gratinées (garlic, parsley, white wine, bread crumbs, grated cheese and a little paprika) with mussels from Bouzigues and they were delicious:

Chez nous ce soir j’ai fait les moules gratinées – les moules de Bouzigues à l’ail, persil, vin blanc, chapelure, fromage rapé et un peu de piment doux – et elles sont delicieuses:

moules gratinees 2_1_1

Followed by Lo Jardinièr’s chard and goats’ cheese tart:

chard   goats' cheese tart_1_1

In the garden / Au jardin

celery_1_1_1 new artichoke_1_1

We planted out 10 celery plants from seed given to us by Kate.  I sowed the seed in October and they have grown very slowly on the windowsill through the cold weather.  They’re doing well now, though.  Thanks, Kate!  The artichoke plant on the right is supposed to be the same variety as its bigger neighbour – Violet de Provence.  I can’t remember whether the others had similar smooth-edged leaves when they were small.

>Bees at work / Les abeilles travaillent


The apricot is blossoming … / L’abricotier fleurit …

Wednesday …
apricot blossom bud_2 Friday …. apricot blossom bud 3_1
Sunday ….
apricot blossom 4_1
Monday ….

And the bees are at work …. / Et les abeilles travaillent …

bee on apricot_1 bee on apricot 3_1

Lo Jardinièr has laid some paving in front of our bench, using recycled tiles. / Lo Jardinièr a mis des carreaux recyclés devant notre banc.

tiles 1_1_1

The anemones are starting to flower. / Les anemones commencent à fleurir.


>Potatoes and the moon

>I missed the total eclipse of the moon early on Thursday morning – I looked out at 4 a.m., but couldnt see the moon because it was covered by cloud. Just in case the moon does have its claimed influence on the garden, though,today, the day after the full moon, we planted our potatoes to give them the best chance. It gets so dry here later in the year that they have to be planted in February – 75 days till harvest for the earlies, it says on the label, so we should have new potatoes around the beginning of May. Any later and they will need too much expensive water.

Traditionally the phases of the moon have been seen as having an effect on the growth of plants and gardening planting, sowing and harvesting have been governed by the lunar calendar. The experienced gardeners here in Gabian refer to it often, although they dont always follow it. Because vegetables contain a large proportion of water, the idea is that the moon affects them as it does the tides in the seas. A new moon draws water upwards and so this is the best time for planting leaf crops like salads and cabbages. After the full moon, its waning encourages water down towards the soil and this is therefore the best time for planting root crops like potatoes, and for transplanting. Detailed lunar calendars are published which give precise dates throughout the year when particular garden tasks are recommended. I bought one last year, Le Calendrier Lunaire du bon jardinier although I didnt follow it very closely. Well see whether the potatoes do better this year than last year when we planted them at the wrong time.

I knew that in Wales the traditional day for planting potatoes has always been Good Friday, but I didnt know why until our friend Drew, who now lives in Navarra, explained that it would be the day of the pascal moon. Drew also sent me a quote about pig killing from Flora Thompsons Lark Rise to Candleford trilogy: the killing had to take place some time during the first two quarters of the moon; for if the pig was killed when the moon was waning, the bacon would shrink in the cooking, and they wanted it to “plimp up”.

The anemones are coming out now, too.