>Red vine leaves

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Although the sun wasn’t shining today and the sky was grey, the leaves in this vineyard near Chateau de Cassan on our way to Roujan were a wonderful deep, purplish-red colour which looked beautiful against the olive trees. I think these vines are Grenache (Garnacha in Spanish, Garnatxa in Catalan).

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DSC00053 In the photos above, between the rows of vines, you can see the white flowers of the false rocket which is sown in the vineyards and then ploughed in as a green manure. It self-seeds everywhere, including in our garden, and you can eat it. It tastes just like rocket but with a slightly coarser leaf.

>Clearing away the summer

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This morning the sky over the garden was cold and grey with the sun trying to break through the clouds.  The sun did come out later, but it was time to clear away the Roma tomato plants anyway.

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Some of the tomatoes will ripen, the others we’ll use to make green tomato jam which we’ve found goes very well with cheese, especially goats’ cheese.

 

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The broad beans and peas are coming up well.  We put the straw over the rows to conserve water, but I don’t think it’s really necessary any more.  Although we haven’t had a lot of rain lately the soil is very damp.

 

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A friend went to the Spanish border at Le Perthus and brought us back this bunch of over 100 Spanish sweet onions to plant.  They should be the first onions to be ready to eat in the spring, before the local Lezignan sweet onions.  The excitement of planting these and seeing the peas and broad beans coming up compensates a bit for the sadness I always feel in autumn as the days get shorter and the weather gets colder.

We’re lucky here, though, to have a second spring in autumn, when it rains and plants start to grow again and to flower after dying back during the dry summer.

 

DSC09920 The rosemary is covered with flower, although the pyracantha looks quite christmassy! DSC09922

 

DSC09937 DSC09933 Our little palm is a Washingtonia, which is hardy here so it doesn’t need to be wrapped up for winter.  There are new leaves growing from the centre (above).

>Chard, vines and clouds

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As the aubergines, peppers and tomatoes come to an end it’s time to start eating the chard we’re growing for the winter. We’ve got two rows of chard plants, some given to us by a neighbour as seedlings and one row of plants that we found had self-seeded all around the garden. Today we ate some chopped leaves simply cooked in boiling salted water, drained and then tossed in olive oil and chopped garlic.

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Vineyards near Faugères yesterday – the different varieties of vine turn gradually different colours, marking out the vineyards.
DSC09865 At sunset yesterday, the clouds were beginning to gather. Rain is forecast for the next couple of days – good for the garden and the spring at the top of the hill.

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I’ve brought the peppers indoors to finish drying as the nights are cooler now.
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And a Sunday treat – I made middle eastern sweetmeats with walnuts, dates and ground almonds.

>After a storm

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In the garden today …

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a raindrop caught in a passiflora tendril …

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a mantis crawling among the weeds, …

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and the sun trying to come through the clouds and our neighbour’s almond tree.

We planted out cabbage and lettuce and harvested more late tomatoes, some red and some still green.  It will be time to clear all the tomato plants soon but there is still a chance some more will ripen if we get sunshine next week, as forecast.

>World Food Day

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There are serious food issues affecting developing countries and many parts of the world where people do not have enough to eat. According to the United Nations one-sixth of humanity is undernourished. In the developed world the issues are more to do with over-consumption and waste of the earth’s resources. Sometimes it seems as though there is little that an individual can do. But I think that growing as much as we can of our own food and buying food that is locally produced are important small steps that each of us can make, to conserve the earth’s limited resources and to minimise exploitation of people in the developing world. You can find out more about World Food Day here.

Big commerce is bad for food. This is my 201st post on this blog and, on World Food Day, I would like to make it a celebration of local food. In our village we’re lucky to have a weekly market, an excellent épicerie (grocer’s shop), a small supermarket, a boulangerie (baker’s shop) and visiting vans which sell meat and shellfish.

DSC09355 The charcuterie stall at the Wednesday market. DSC09433
The butcher’s van on Friday morning.
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The boulangerie – bakery.
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The épicerie – grocer’s shop, full of good food and friendly advice.

We, and anyone else who lives here, can buy all we need in the village. It is excellent quality, good value and much of it is produced locally. We find we need go to supermarkets only to buy toiletries and Italian coffee. In Roujan, a larger village 2 km away, there are two excellent butchers who sell an enormous range of good meat and, best of all, will advise on how to cook it, as well as other friendly small shops.

But the small shops in Roujan, and maybe Gabian too, are threatened by the construction of a supermarket there.

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This is the site of the planned supermarket where, as in Gabian, more plane trees have been felled to make another new roundabout at its entrance.

This is bad news for food. In the UK it has been shown that when a supermarket is built on the outskirts of a town it sucks the lifeblood from the centre. The food sold in supermarkets is mass-produced and generally of lower quality than that in small shops. It is transported long distances, wasting resources and causing pollution. Because of their centralised distribution systems supermarkets cannot support local food as well as small shops can. And the profits made leave the area, feeding big business rather than being ploughed back into the locality.

And local wine …

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This evening we went to a tasting to celebrate the arrival of the primeur wine at the Cave Co-operative at Neffiès. The vin primeur is the first of the year’s wine to be ready to drink, a light wine which takes only three weeks or so to make. It’s a good reason for a party and the tasting at Neffiès was fun, with roasted chestnuts (another seasonal local product) to eat with the wine, and live music. The cave at Neffiès has recently amalgamated with the one at nearby Alignan-du-vent (a sign of the times and the economic crisis in wine-making), but we were pleased to hear that some of the high-quality wines from Neffiès such as their Cathérine de Juery will continue to be made.

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Hot roasted chestnuts to accompany the new wine.
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Tuning up for the music and wine tasting.

And home to a local supper

We came home from Neffiès to a supper of roast saddle of lamb, bought in one of the butcher’s shops in Roujan, and aubergines stuffed with tomatoes, both grown in our garden. A delicious local supper! We marinaded the saddle of lamb with rosemary, garlic and lemon juice for a few hours, then roasted it, adding a glass of white wine to the roasting dish, until it was just done and still a bit pink inside. We served it with halved aubergines topped with chopped tomatoes, garlic, thyme and olive oil and baked in the oven.

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Bilingual blog / le blog bilingue

Over the next few weeks I shall not have time to write my blog posts in French as well as English. I’ll resume the French version as soon as possible, but in the meantime I apologise for not being able to produce a bilingual blog.

Pendant les semaines qui viennent je n’aurai pas le temps pour écrire les articles sur ce blog en français. Je reprendrai la version française aussitôt que possible, mais pour le moment je m’excuse de ne pas produire un blog bilingue.

>Rain at last! / La pluie enfin!

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Last night and this morning we had about 10 hours of steady rain – very good for the garden.  /  Pendant la nuit et le matin il a plu pour 10 heures sans interruption – très bon pour le jardin.

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But it was sad to see the plane tree roots being removed from the roadside.  /  Mais c’était triste de voir qu’on enlevait les racines des platanes.

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The vines look very bright and green in the rain, though they’ll be turning autumnal very soon.

Les vignes sont très claires et vertes sous la pluie, mème si les couleurs d’automne apparaitront bientôt.

 

At lunchtime Lo Jardinièr tried out one of his souvenirs from our trip over the Spanish border – a device for helping to turn a tortilla, made of wood, the size of the frying pan … and it worked!  /  À midi Lo Jardinièr a essayé un des souvenirs que nous avons apporté de l’Espagne – un truc pour s’aider à tourner une tortilla, en bois et la mème taille de la poêle – et ça marche!

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We ate the tortilla with sobresada, a Mallorcan sausage which a neighbour gave us, given to him by a friend who’d been to Mallorca, tomatoes from the garden and aubergine with feta cheese, and a glass of red wine, of course!  Recipes for the tortilla and the aubergine dish will be on the recipe blog soon.

>Autumn market / Le marché en automne

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At Pézenas market yesterday there were signs of autumn under the hot sun – roast chestnuts, ceps (porcini) and girolle mushrooms.  /  Sur le marché à Pézenas hier il y avait des signes d’automne – des marrons grillés, des ceps et des girolles.

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And music … jazz by the café and jazz manouche in a side street opposite /  Et la musique …. le jazz près du café et le jazz manouche dans une petite rue à l’autre côté de la rue.

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We bought some lamb’s lettuce and some Rougette lettuce seedlings to replace some of the plants that were washed away in a thunderstorm a couple of weeks ago.  /  On a acheté des plants de mâche et de Rougette.