Summer landscape

First add the sound…

then magnify it by a lot. I’m not sure where this clip was recorded, but the cicadas sound a lot more polite than ours!

Now imagine the scent of fennel wherever you walk at the edges of the vineyards where the fennel plants are just begin to flower:

The vines are green, their leaves hiding this year’s grapes, sheltering them from the heat while they’re still growing.

At the roadsides and in the uncultivated spaces the wild flowers are almost over and the plants are dying back, to re-emerge when rain comes again in the autumn.

Through the dry stems I could see right down to the sea – the hill rising in the distance on the left is near Le Grau d’Agde where I swam the other day – and still the cicadas were singing, wherever I went when I was out this morning.

Cicadas – the sound of summer

If you haven’t heard a cicada before listen to this:

and then imagine what a row of trees filled with them must sound like!  It’s the sound of summer in the Midi, this mating call made by the male cicadas by clicking membranes on their thoraxes – it’s not peaceful in the countryside when this lot get going.  This evening there was one in our olive tree, making a really piercing chattering noise as I walked past:

They’re not very pretty creatures but I liked the way the low evening sun was glinting on the wings of this one.

A platter of apricots and a tomato update

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When we went to Le Grau d’Agde the other day we stopped on the way home at one of the many roadside fruit and vegetable stalls that are set up in summer to catch the holidaymakers, especially, but also the locals.  Many of them sell produce grown in fields within sight of the stall and they all sell very good value fruit and vegetables, mostly of excellent quality, but also some real bargains if you want damaged fruit to make jam with.  We bought this platter of about 5 kilos of good quality ripe apricots for 6 euros.  As we can’t possible eat them all before the get over-ripe we made jam with some of them and froze some as granita. 

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My very simple recipe for granita is to stone the fruit and then process it in the food processor until the fruit is chopped into small pieces but not completely smooth.  For 1.5 kilo of fruit (about 1.75 kilo with stones) I added the juice of a lemon.  I made a sugar syrup by bringing to the boil 400 ml of water and 700 grams of sugar until the sugar dissolved, let it cool a bit then added it to the fruit purée, put it all into freezer containers and into the freezer.  I take it out of the freezer about 15 minutes before serving and garnish it with mint leaves.

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And the tomatoes……

Yesterday evening in the garden I noticed that one of the Languedocian tomatoes seems to be starting to change colour, becoming slightly yellow rather than green on its way to red – or is it just my imagination?

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All the tomatoes are doing well with what looks like a very good crop on plants of all the varieties.  I’m especially pleased with the Languedocians, which are adapted to conditions in this area, and the Turkish pink variety, grown from seeds sent to me by beste.  The tomatoes on these plants are said to reach 1 kilo in weight and these ones look as though they’re well on their way towards that!

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The marigolds in the left-hand corner of the picture were given to us by our neighbour as he uses them along his rows of tomatoes to prevent pests.  They appear to prevent aphids, not a problem I’ve noticed with tomato plants, but they look pretty anyway!

Une chemise de cigale

The empty casings from which cicada nymphs emerge after spending at least two years underground are called ‘chemises’ in French, cicada’s shirts.  I found this on one of the posts supporting our aubergine plants:

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By the time they emerge from their chemises they have developed wings and they fly away, the males to spend the rest of the summer making their characteristic cricket-like buzzing whenever the temperature reaches 26 C or more.

We came home from the garden to a supper which I’d prepared earlier – baked cuttlefish with capers, olives and potatoes.  I’ve posted the recipe on my Food from the Mediterranean blog.

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>First tomatoes!

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We’ve been watching several of our Languedocienne tomatoes turning red and ripening over the past few days and today we picked the first four.  What a treat it was to have a salad for lunch made with tomatoes, basil and garlic from the garden and arbequine olive oil from the Moulin du Mas St Pierre which we bought when we visited in April.

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A cicada case and rampant pumpkin plants

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When cicadas hatch out they crawl up onto a high plant or branch and emerge from these casings.  Lo Jardinièr found one today.  By the time he’d fetched the camera the cicada had flown off, but the casing was left.  Our pumpkin plants are making a bid to take over the whole garden – compare this with the extent of the plants only eleven days ago!  We’ve been watering the garden ever other day (economising a bit on other years when we’ve watered every day, and the plants still seem to be getting enough), and during two days in between waterings earlier this week the plants had completely covered the hosepipe, growing about half a metre.  We’re hoping to have some nice big pumpkins in the autumn, and the butternut squash plants seem to have settled in well too.

>First aubergine and a new watering system / La première aubergine et un nouveau système d’arrosage

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In spite of the locusts and the Colorado beetles, our aubergine plants are doing well, with a lot of small aubergines growing.  Today we ate the first one, grilled on the barbecue and garnished with thyme, oregano, olive oil and chopped garlic – it tasted wonderful.

Malgré les criquets et les scarabées, nos plants d’aubergine poussent bien avec beaucoup de petites aubergines.  Aujourd’hui nous en avons mangé la première de la saison, garnie de thym, oreganum, huile d’olive et ail haché – elle était delicieuse!

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1st aubergine and 74th courgette!

Another new watering system / un autre nouveau système d’arrosage

Throughout the summer we’re constantly thinking about better ways to water the garden.  The terracotta pot system which Kate from Hills and Plains seedsavers devised has worked really well for beans and garlic and we’ll use it for other crops – leaf vegetables like chard next, probably.

Pendant l’été nous pensons toujours des façons d’arroser le jardin.  Le système de pots en terrecuite conçu par Kate de Hills and Plains seedsavers a marché bien pour les haricots et l’ail et nous l’utiliserons pour des autres légumes – les blettes peut-être.

Now we are trying a new system for watering the tomato and pepper plants.  We bought two plastic dustbins which can be filled with water from the stream whenever it is running.  Lo Jardinièr has fixed siphon tubes from the bins which lead via taps to slow drip hoses in the rows of tomatoes and peppers.  The taps can be turned on in the evening and left so that the water in the bins slowly drips into the soil between the plants.

Maintenant nous essayons un nouveau système pour l’arrosage des tomates et des poivrons.  On a acheté deux poubelles en plastique qui on peut remplir de l’eau du ruisseau.  Lo Jardinièr a mis un tuyau pour siphonner l’eau en passant par un robinet et puis par un tuyau goutte à goutte à la terre entre les rangs.

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The leek flower is covered with insects.
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The sunflowers are blooming.
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And here is a cicada in the apricot tree.

And we’ve had so many Swallowtail butterflies in the garden this year that I couldn’t resist a few more photos of them:

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>Beetles update / Mise à jour des scarabées

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Most of the beetles have disappeared, just a few tiny ones remain, and the Borlotti beans look fine and are growing fast. / La plupart des scarabées sont disparus et les haricots Borlottis sont biens et poussent vite.

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Maybe these beetles were good ones / Peut-être ces scarabées sont bons.

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The haricot beans are growing well too / Les haricots verts poussent bien aussi.

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A salad from the garden today: courgette, cucumber, Lezignan onion, garlic and oregano, and today’s harvest of courgettes and beans. / Une salade du jardin aujourd’hui: courgette, concombre, oignon de Lezignan, ail et oreganum, et la récolte d’aujourd’hui: courgettes et haricots verts.

And something I can’t post on the blog – last week we heard a single cicada in the almond tree in the next garden. Since then we’ve heard their summer chorus all around the garden and in the plane trees along the roads.

Les cigales ont commencé à chanter.

If you haven’t heard them before listen to the sound here:

Cicada / cigale A group of them in a line of trees make a very loud noise! It’s the sound of the south which they are said to make when the temperature is above 26 degrees C.