Today’s harvest

It has suddenly turned cold and windy and after some rain yesterday we didn’t need to water the garden.  We’d intended to eat our lunch there, but it was too chilly for that so we just did some work with the tomato plants – tying them and pinching out sideshoots because they are growing so quickly now – and picked vegetables.


A basket full of lettuce and chard ….


the chard again, some haricot beans and some last stragglers of mangetout peas, which are nearly over now.


And in just five minutes or so we picked nearly a kilo of griottes (sour cherries) from our neighbour’s tree, at his invitation.  I’ve put a few in a jar with sugar and Armagnac to leave in the cupboard for at least six months until they make a delicious fruit-filled liqueur which makes a good digestif.  We ate a few of the cherries for lunch, but although they have a good flavour they are quite tart.   Most of them went into a pan, stoned first, with the same weight in jam-making sugar to make three pots of jam.

Global food justice

Today Oxfam UK launched a campaign for global food justice.  I was alerted to it by Blipfoto, the photo journal site on which I post a daily image, when it was suggested that we should have a virtual global picnic to help promote the Oxfam campaign.  This was my contribution (and a very good lunch too):


All the food and wine in this photo except the slice of lemon (from Spain) comes from the village where I live or the nearby sea.  The global food and environmental crisis is something I think about a lot, and have written about on my food and gardening blogs for several years. In order to help change the world, we in western countries have to accept that our lives must change and that we cannot continue to exploit developing countries for our needs. As my small contribution to this, I try to eat only food that comes from within 100 kilometres of where I live and I grow as much of my own as I can.

We shouldn’t expect developing countries to grow the products which make our lives easier or more pleasant, at the expense of those people’s needs. An article in yesterday’s Guardian by Felicity Lawrence highlighted the problems of people in Guatemala who grow palm oil for biofuels so that people in rich countries can feel less guilty about driving their cars while the workers themselves are unable to feed their families properly.

Apart from concern about my carbon footprint, sustainability and my share of the earth’s resources, I have selfish reasons for eating local food – it tastes so much better if it hasn’t travelled long distances and especially so if it’s been grown in our own garden!

>World Food Day


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.
The boulangerie – bakery.
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.

DSC09424 DSC09425 DSC09427

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 …


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.

Hot roasted chestnuts to accompany the new wine.
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.


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.

>Local food again / La nourriture locale encore


Lo Jardinièr and I spend a lot of time talking about and eating local food. We try to eat food which is produced as locally as possible, and much of it comes from our own garden. We do try not to get obsessional about it, though, and Lo Jardinièr often points out that some trade between communities and between countries is essential. It’s unrealistic to expect people in the twenty-first century to have the way of life which was common in rural areas during the nineteenth century. We’ve both read an interesting book by Gillian Tindall, Céléstine, about life in the Berry region of central France 150 years ago. Tindall discovered from letters written at the time that people in the village of Chassignolles very rarely went to the nearest town, La Châtre which was only 7 km away. The only things they needed to buy there were needles for sewing. Everything else was produced in the village. This kind of self-sufficiency is almost impossible to imagine now.

Nous essayons de manger la nourriture locale et beaucoup de légumes qu’on mange vient de notre jardin. Mais, le commerce est necessaire. En outre, vivre comme les gens du dix-neuvième siècle c’est peu réaliste. Nous venons de lire un histoire d’un village dans le Berry il y a 150 ans, Céléstine, de Gillian Tindall, qui raconte la vie du village de Chassignolles donc les habitants ont visité la ville de La Châtre très peu, seulement pour acheter les aiguilles. Tous leurs autres besoins étaient produit dans le village.

Kate at Hills and Plains Seedsavers has recently been writing about local food, too. With the eyes of someone new to French markets she has remarked on things which we sometimes take for granted, like the fact that almost everything you buy here is marked with its département of origin. In the markets here in the Languedoc very locally grown fruit and vegetables are marked ‘pays’, meaning the countryside around, or even the name of the village or small town near which they were grown, like the grapes from Clermont l’Hérault.

Kate a écrit sur le blog Hills and Plains Seedsavers au sujet de la nourriture locale. Une australienne en France, elle a remarqué des choses que nous ne remarquons plus, comme les départements d’origine de tous les produits qui sont indiqués sur les marchés.

Our aim is to eat mostly food which is produced within 100 km of Gabian, but to allow ourselves some foodstuffs, most importantly coffee, which come from further away. Sometimes during the winter I can’t resist buying an aubergine which has come from the south of Spain and we eat citrus fruits from Valencia and dried fruit from north Africa, which I tell myself is almost local, just the other side of the Mediterranean. We’ve always eaten a lot of rice, occasionally Basmati rice from India, but since we’ve been living in Gabian mostly from Spain and Italy and the Camargue (about 100 km away), which I thought was the nearest rice production area. So I’m very excited to have found an even more local rice producer in Marseillette which is only 80 km away.

riz de marseillette_1_1_1 rice marseillette 1_1 Duo of red and white rice, cooked

Je suis ravie de trouver un producteur de riz qui est très proche – 80 km de Gabian à Marseillette dans l’Aude.

La Rizière de l’Etang de Marseillette

Laurent Malis grows long grain, red grain, round grain and whole grain rice in what was once a salt water lagoon which was drained at the beginning of the nineteenth century. His website has all the details (in French) of the area, the range of rice he grows and recipes. And, best of all, the rice is delicious!

Laurent Malis cultive le riz à Marseillette, sur un étang qui a été asseché en 1808. Le site Internet a des renseignements sur la gamme de riz, le terroir et des recettes. Et le riz est délicieux!

Lamb and aubergine casserole with rice / Casserole d’agneau et d’aubergine au riz

marseillette rice   lamb casserole_1_1

I made a casserole with some pieces of breast of lamb, onions, garlic, white wine, paprika and tomato passata. When it was nearly ready I added some reconstituted dried aubergine slices which we grew last summer, and served it with the Marseillette rice.

The recipe for this casserole will be on the Mediterranean cuisine blog. La recette sera sur le blog Mediterranean cuisine.



This was a very local dish. We made tapenade with some of the olives given to us in November by friends who live about 4 km away. We cured the olives and they are now ready to eat. You can add anchovies to tapenade, but this is a simpler recipe. We removed the stones from the olives, leaving about 300 gm of olive flesh. I chopped 3 cloves of garlic and some parsley in the food processor, added the olives and processed them, then added the juice of half a lemon, a couple of tablespoonfuls of olive oil and some salt. Et voilà! Serve the tapenade with lemon wedges and crusty bread or toast. These olives give it a lovely reddish colour.

>Heated seed starter / Une boîte pour faire germer les semences


Because we don’t need much heating here – most winters – we don’t have a central heating boiler or even an airing cupboard, both of which were useful in Wales for providing warmth for germinating seeds in spring.  So I found a description of a homemade seed starter on the Mother Earth News website and asked Lo Jardinièr to make one like it.  Luckily he collects and hoards all sorts of useful bits and pieces, so the only thing we needed to buy for this was a light bulb.

J’ai demandé à Lo Jardinièr de construire une boîte chauffée pour faire germer les semences, que j’ai trouvé sur le site Mother Earth News.  Heureusement, il toujours ramasse et amasse les petits trucs, donc le seul truc qu’on a dü acheter pour ça c’est l’ampoule.

seed box 1_1_1

seed box 2_1_1
The box, 40 cm x 34 cm, with 25w light bulb fitted…..
seed box 3_1_1 lined with aluminium foil to reflect the heat ….
seed box 4_1_1
light bulb covered with a sheet of aluminium to diffuse the heat …
seed box 5_1_1 the whole box covered with a piece of metal ….

seed box 6_1_1

the seed tray with our tomato seeds on top of the heated box.

Our box measures 40 cm by 34 cm, but the size can be varied according to the materials you have available.  If it’s any bigger you may need two light bulbs.

La boîte mesure 40 cm x 34 cm, mais on peut la faire plus grande, selon vos materiaux.  Si c’est plus grande que ça, peut-être il faut mettre deux ampoules.

I offer no electrical guarantees – make sure the wiring is done safely! Faites attention à l’électricité!

One tip from our knowledgeable garden friend who tells us about the weather : once the seeds have germinated and the plants have started to grow, you can put the seed trays in the car where they will be warm and get lots of light before they are ready to be transplanted into the garden – a sort of mobile greenhouse!

Une astuce de notre ami du jardin qui nous dit tous sur le temps – quand les semences ont germé et les plants ont commencé à pousser, on peut les mettre dans la voiture, ou ils auront chauds et il y aura beaucoup de lumière jusqu’à ils soient prêts à planter dans le jardin.

>A weekend away and some rare treats / Un weekend de petits plaisirs


We spent the weekend in Uzès, near Nîmes, a beautiful old town of narrow streets and turreted buildings. One of the highlights of our stay there was the Saturday market in the arcaded place aux Herbes.

lavender_1_1 uzes market_1_1_1
uzes flower stall_1_1 uzes market 2_1_1

Nous avons passé le weekend à Uzès, près de Nîmes, une belle vielle ville de ruelles étroites et de tourelles. Un des points forts de notre séjour était le marché à la place aux Herbes.

Under the arcade in one corner of the place we found La Maison de la Truffe – Uzès is a centre for the sale of truffles which grow under oak trees in the surrounding hills. I was shocked when I asked the price – over 700 € a kilo – but they are very light, so we were able to afford a couple of small ones as a treat.

Au coin de la place nous avons trouvé La Maison de la Truffe – Uzès est un centre de la production de la truffe. J’ai été étonnée quand j’ai demandé le prix – plus de 700 € le kilo – mais les truffes sont très légère, donc on en a pu acheter deux petites.

more truffles than we could afford
…. and one that we could
truffle - sliced 2_1
thinly sliced (beautiful patterns)
truffle   pasta_1
and added to pasta with melted butter, a treat when we got home.

And there’s still one small truffle left which I’m going to use in other dishes, and I’ll add a small piece to some olive oil to make truffle oil.

Vegetables stuffed with artichoke purée /

Les légumes farcis à la purée d’artichaut

We had some excellent meals in Uzès and one of the vegetable accompaniments which inspired me to experiment at home was a yellow pepper stuffed with a purée of artichoke hearts. In the summer I’ll make this with our own vegetables from the garden, but when I found a stall in the market selling ready-made artichoke purée – caviare d’artichaut – I couldn’t resist trying it with some courgettes and serving them today with olive bread from an organic bread stall.

courgettes   artichokes 2_1_1

Trying to think positively about building development / En essayant d’être optimiste quant au lotissement

I was upset to see that the building work on land around the gardens has now started. Trenches dug ready for foundations and services. We’ve known this has been planned for several years, but seeing it happening was a shock today. I’m trying to be positive about it. We should still have the same uninterrupted view from the garden and we’re sheltered by old stone walls and bamboo. I tell myself I shouldn’t be selfish – people need houses and why shouldn’t they live on the hill next to our garden. I like having people around me, that’s why I live in the village rather than in an isolated rural house ….. but I find it hard to accept that a small village like Gabian with 700 inhabitants, can absorb the increase in population which an extra 100 houses will bring without changing its character. We’ll see.

Les travaux ont commencé sur le terrain autour des jardins. Vers 100 maisons. J’essaye d’être optimiste, mais c’est difficile d’accepter qu’un petit village de 700 habitants peut se developper sans changer son caractère. On vera.

Organic local food – the only hope for the planet / la nourriture bio et locale – le seul espoir pour la planète

If you haven’t already read it, you should read Kate’s recent post on Hills and Plains Seedsavers about the cost to the environment, to the planet and to all of us of industrialised agriculture. As Kate reports, it takes 10 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie of food using ‘conventional’ agriculture, whereas Producing food naturally, in your own backyard or close to home actually produces 10 calories of food for every 1 calorie put in to its production. How can we afford not to eat organic local food? There need to be huge changes in the way societies agree to produce food. Organic local food should no longer be seen as elitist and expensive – it has this reputation in developed countries, although it is considered normal in many other parts of the world. I can only hope that the global economic crisis can help to put a stop to the progress of large-scale food production and GM crops and begin a return to more rational methods.

L’agriculture globalisée et industrialisée prend 10 calories d’énergie pour produire 1 calorie de nourriture. La production naturelle, locale et biologique prend 1 calorie pour 10 calories de nourriture. Comment peut-on refuser la nourriture bio?

>Mussels – sustainable food / Les moules – la nourriture durable


mussels 1_1_1

Each time we eat mussels – and that is quite often since the van from Bouzigues comes to the village twice a week – I become more convinced that mussels and oysters are a sustainable food for those of us who live near where they are farmed.

Chaque fois que nous mangeons les moules – et c’est assez souvent car le camion de coquillage de Bouzigues arrive au village deux fois par semaine – je deviens de plus en plus convaincue que les moules et les huitres sont de la nourriture durable pour ceux qui habitent près des etangs où elles sont cultivées.

The British website gives a lot of information about which fish to eat and which to avoid, not all of it applicable to the Mediterranean. The website is definite about mussels and oysters, though. So long as they are farmed or hand-gathered from the wild, they are OK. It states that:

Shellfish farming is an extensive, low-impact method of mariculture and high quality water standards are required for cultivation of shellfish for human consumption.

As I’ve pointed out before, the high quality of water needed is a benefit as the producers have a vested interest in keeping it unpolluted. So it seems it’s all good news as far as both food and the environment are concerned.

Le site web britannique donne des renseignements de quels poissons sont bien à manger. Si les coquillages sont cultivés ou ramassés à la main, ils sont durables. Et la necessité d’une très bonne qualité de l’eau est un avantage parce qu’il es dans l’interêt des producteurs de garder l’eau saine.

For us, living near the Bassin de Thau where mussels and oysters are farmed, shellfish seem to be the ideal food – fresh, tasty, environmentally friendly … and cheap: only 3 € a kilo.

Mussels with tomato and fennel sauce / Moules à la sauce tomate et fenouille

mussels   tomato sauce_1_1

We hadn’t thought of having mussels for supper last night, but when we heard the announcement that the coquillage van had arrived we made a spur-of-the-moment decision and Lo Jardinièr went to the place and bought a kilo. We had some fennel we’d bought in the market on Wednesday, so I made a tasty tomato sauce with it. The full recipe is on my mediterranean food blog.

La recette pour ce plat est sur mon blog cuisine mediterranéenne.

PS Michelle at From Seed to Table advises US readers to consult the Monterey Bay Acquarium site for information about which fish to eat:

>My list for the planet / ma liste pour la planète


For the past few days, since I read Kate’s post on responsibility for the planet on the Hills and Plains Seedsavers blog, I’ve been thinking about my own list.  I believe that we should all have such a list, but that this doesn’t absolve governments from responsibility.  Individuals cannot save the planet – governments have to do something too.  However, in spite of the occasional hopeful sign, politicians are failing the planet, so we have to do what we can while we try to persuade them to do their bit too.

Pendant ces derniers jours, depuis que je lis le poste de Kate au sujet de la responsibilité pour la planète, je pensais de ma propre liste.  Je crois que tout le monde doit avoir une liste, mais il faut aussi que les gouvernements prennent la responsibilité.  Les individus ne peuvent pas sauver la planète.  Cependant, malgré des signes d’espoir de temps en temps, les politiciens manquent à leurs devoirs envers à la planète.  Donc on doit faire ce qu’on doit pendant que nous essayons de les persuader.

This is the list of ways in which Lo Jardinièr and I think we can take responsibility for our lives and the future of the planet:

1.  Growing our own food / cultiver le potager

April harvest_1_1_1

We grow almost all the vegetables we eat, almost all year.  This is mainly because we enjoy gardening and because they taste better. (I wrote about this in August.)  But it also saves on transporting food by road, or even worse by air.  We cook all our food – we hardly ever buy anything ready prepared.

On cultive le potager parce qu’on aime jardiner et les légumes ont plus de gout.  (Voir mon poste en août.)  Mais aussi ça utilise moins de ressources du monde.

2.  Buying local, buying sustainably, recycling / acheter localement, durablement, et renouvelablement

Almost all the food we eat comes from within 100 km of the village, although we do buy fruit from Spain and North Africa  When we eat meat, it is usually pork, poultry or lamb, which are sustainable, rather than beef which is not.  As far as consumer durables are concerned we’re lucky to have reached the stage in our lives when we have furnished our house, so we don’t buy much.  We also keep using these items while they are still working, rather than throwing them out for the latest fashion – for example our oven which is old and ugly, but it works, so we’re keeping it.  On the rare occasions when we take things to the dump we pick up building materials that others have thrown out.  We’re hoping to find wood for a cold frame there and will buy old windows for it from Emmaus, a recycling charity.

On mange les produits qui viennent de moins de 100 km du village, a part des fruits de l’Espagne et de l’Afrique du Nord.  On mange le porc, la volaille et l’agneau.  On continue d’utiliser les machines qui marchent toujours.

3.  Minimal packaging / emballage minimal

gabian packaging_1_1

Because what we do buy comes from local shops and markets, there is very little packaging.  Anything we buy in the market goes straight into our wicker basket and we refuse offers of plastic bags.  Cheese and meat from the local shop are wrapped in paper, and vegetables are put in paper bags which we re-use to collect food from the garden. 

Car ce qu’on achète vient des magasins locaux et le marché, il y a très peu d’emballage.  On refuse les poches en plastique.

4.  Share and exchange / partager et échanger

One of the nice aspects of living in a village is having a community of people nearby with whom we can exchange and share.  Just a couple of examples: Friends give us fruit, we make jam with it and then give them back some jars of jam in return.  We’ve bought a second-hand trailer to share with our neighbour, since neither of us need to use it every day.

On partage et échange avec les autres habitants du village.

5.  No air-conditioning / on refuse la climatisation

The units look ugly on the outside of lovely old village houses, the air quality they produce is unnatural and in cars air-conditioning uses extra fuel.  In summer we shut the shutters in the afternoons to keep the heat out.  In the car we open the windows.

En été on ferme les volets l’après-midi.  Dans la voiture on ouvre les fenêtres.

6.  We don’t fly / on refuse de voyager en avion

We never fly.  This isn’t a choice that everyone can make, we know.  But when we go on holiday we go by train.  And we enjoy it!

On voyage en train, et on l’aime!

7.  A few (unsustainable) luxuries / quelques luxes non-durables


Italian coffee – roasted in Italy, grown in South America or Africa.  Very occasionally, we eat steak.  And because I can’t walk up hills easily, we go by car to the garden.

Le café italien.  Le steak, de temps en temps.  Aller en voiture au jardin.

This list isn’t complete, but it’s a start.  Everyone has to make their own choices for their own lists.  This is ours.  What’s yours?

>Buy sustainably challenge and Garden Bloggers’ bloom day


Maybe this is cheating a bit, but I think it qualifies for the Buy Sustainably challenge on 1greengeneration.  We wouldn’t actually have gone out and bought a rotavator, but when we were offered one which needed a little attention, and which otherwise was going to be thrown on the dump, we accepted it.  Lo Jardinièr cleaned the valves and the top of the piston, put the engine back together again …. and it works!

rotavator 1_1_1 rotavator 2_1_1

It will make cultivating the garden much easier – and we transported it to the garden in the cheap secondhand trailer which we bought jointly to share with our neighbour.  There’s no need to have one of our own – we don’t use it every day.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

There aren’t many flowers in the garden at the moment for Garden bloggers’ bloom day (hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens) and the ones that are there are mostly weeds, but we’re enjoying …

climbing rose_1
the climbing rose – not a weed
scabious – which is a weed but a nice one
vinca – also a weed which would cover the whole garden, given the chance.