>Onions from Lézignan

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‘La Cébe des Lézignan es douça coumo lou pan’ (Occitan for ‘Lézignan onions are sweet as bread’. (from Monsieur Lucas’s website)

This morning we went on our annual trip to Lézignan la Cèbe near Pézenas to buy seedlings of the famous onions that grow there. I wrote about this village and its onions last year so I won’t describe them in detail now, but I’ll just say that they are very sweet when we start to pull them in June to eat in salads or to grill on the barbecue. Later in the summer they become less sweet and we use them for cooking. This morning we planted 50 seedlings next to the 50 seedlings of slightly earlier but similar Spanish onions.

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Looking back at last year’s post about Lézignan onions, I see that while Lo Jardinièr planted the onions I sowed haricot beans…and exactly the same happened this year. I sowed a row of Contender beans, a few days later than the tradition date here which is 19 March, St Joseph’s Day.

Hummingbird hawk moth

I’ve seen a couple of these during the past week or so, rather earlier than usual I think, and managed to get a couple of photos of this one on our aubretia flowers this morning:

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They’re hard to photograph as they never settle on a flower, but just put down a long proboscis into the centre of the flower, which can be seen here beneath the blur of the beating wings.

>Spring flowers, Lezignan onions and wild asparagus

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There’s a partridge hiding in the shadow under these olive trees, and a colourful mix of grape hyacinths and dandelions in the foreground.

It’s the time for planting oignons de Lézignan, the variety of sweet onions which come from the village of Lézignan la Cèbe near Pézenas (ceba is the Occitan word for onion and the village has taken the French version of this word as part of its name).  I wrote about this last year on this blog.  Last year our neighbour went to buy them for us from Monsieur Lucas, one of several producers in the village, the one he says is the best, and this year it was our turn to go. 

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M. Lucas has a website, advertised in the photo (left) for orders by post:
plantsdoignons.free.fr 
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I liked the onion sign attached to a rubbish bin!

As M. Lucas’s website tells us: ‘La Cébe des Lézignan es douça coumo lou pan’ (Occitan for ‘Lézignan onions are sweet as bread’.  Last year we enjoyed them raw in salads until the grew bigger and stronger-flavoured when we barbecued them and cooked them in sauces.

Lo Jardinièr planted them today in a double row, cutting off the tops of the leaves and putting them not too deep and lying slightly against the earth beside them.  Once they settle into the ground they straighten themselves up.

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While he was doing that, I sowed the first haricot beans of the season.  According to one of our friends and gardening neighbours, St Joseph’s Day, 19 March, is the time to start sowing haricot beans, but although we’d prepared the ground for one reason or another I didn’t get round to sowing them until today, which according to the Gardener’s calendar is a good phase of the moon for them.

And it’s asparagus time!

Looking back at my blog posts for this time last year, I noticed that when I wrote about Lézignan onions I also wrote about wild asparagus.  So, it’s not surprising that today we’ve picked the first wild asparagus of this spring.  We didn’t have to go far – when we first took over our garden it had been unused for many years, so wild plants had taken over.  When we found wild asparagus plants we either moved them to somewhere convenient or left them where they were in some of the wilder areas of the plot.  Today we picked a bunch which made a tasty first course for our lunch, cooked in boiling water for about 10 minutes and served very simply with olive oil, chopped garlic, salt and pepper and bread.  They have all the flavour of fresh cultivated asparagus but intensely concentrated into thinner spears – wonderful!

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Jasmine flowers too …

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The jasmine we planted a couple of years ago is flowering for the first time.

>Asparagus and sweet onions / Les asperges et les oignons de Lézignan

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Onions from Lézignan-la-Cèbe are a local speciality.  They are sweet onions from a small village near Pézenas which in 1615 added ‘la Cèbe’ to its name, from the Occitan word for onion – ceba. In Occitan there is even a special verb meaning ‘to plant onions’ – cebejar.  In spring the onion growers in the village sell young plants at the roadside for replanting.  Our neighbour went there and brought 100 plants for us.

L’oignon doux de Lézignan-la-Cèbe est une spécialité de ce village près de Pézenas.  Le village a ajouté ‘la Cèbe’ à son nom en 1615 en honneur.  Ce mot vient du mot occitan ceba (oignon).  En printemps les cultivateurs d’oignons vendent les jeunes plantes au bord de la route.  Notre voisin y est allé et il nous en a apporté 100 plants.

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It was difficult to find space for 100 onions we hadn’t planned for, but we’ve put them in a double row alongside the potatoes.

asparagus salad 1_1_1 We’ve been lucky this week – we were given some more wild asparagus too.  We cooked the spears for a couple of minutes in boiling water, let them cool and dressed them with olive oil and a little lemon juice to eat as a salad.  They were delicious – a concentrated flavour of asparagus but with the added ‘herbyness’ of the garrigue. / On a préparé une salade d’asperges sauvages: cuire les asperges dans l’eau bouillante pour 2 minutes et puis ajouter un peu d’huile d’olive et de jus de citron.  Elles étaient delicieuses avec un gout concentré d’asperge et des herbes de la garrigue.

And a rustic wall / et un mur rustique

Lo Jardinièr has started to make a stone wall to protect our rose bushes from the north wind, using pieces of stone he’s collected.  / Lo Jardinièr a commencé la construction d’un mur en pierres pour protéger nos rosiers du vent du nord, en utilisant des pierres qu’il a ramassé.

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the first row of stones in a trench ….
rose wall 3_1_1 choosing the right stones … rose wall 2_1_1_1 work in progress.