>Still summer, or is it autumn? / Toujours l’été, ou l’automne?

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We spent a few days staying with friends in a village in Navarra, in the Spanish Basque country, last week and everything seemed very green and damp there. / On a passé quelques jours avec des amis dans un village en Navarra, au pays Basque espagnol, la semaine dernière et tout y semblait très vert et humide.

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The garden plots on the flat land between the river and the houses are used for vegetables, maize and cattle. Sheep are kept on the hillsides around the village and the air is filled with the lovely sound of their bells. / Les jardins sur la terre plate entre la rivière et les maisons sont utilisés pour les légumes, le maïs et les vaches. Il y a des brébis sur les collines autour du village et l’air et rempli du son de leurs clochettes.

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Stacks of bracken, to be used for animal bedding, outside a house in the Basque village of Zubieta.

Des meules de fougère près d’une maison basque.

While we were away there was some rain here – heavy enough to wash away some of our seedlings but still not enough. It’s good to come back to bright light and dry days, but we need water for the garden. We’re still harvesting melons, courgettes, peppers and aubergines, and a few tomatoes.

Pendant que nous étions en vacances il a plu un peu ici – assez pour emporter des petits plants, mais pas encore assez pour le jardin. C’est bon revenir à la lumière éclatante et le temps sec, mais on a besoin de l’eau pour le jardin. On ramasse toujours les melons, les courgettes, les poivrons et les aubergines, et quelques tomates.

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The artichoke leaves are beginning to grow again, our saffron crocus has flowered and the olives are beginning to ripen. / Les feuilles d’artichaut commencent à repousser, le crocus de safran fleuri et les olives commencent à mûrir.

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We’ve brought back chorizo peppers from our friend in the Basque country and piments d’Espelette from the French Basque country to dry on the balcony. / Nous avons emporté des piments de chorizo de notre ami au pays Basque et des piments d’Espelette pour sècher sour le balcon.

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And we’ve picked quinces to make membrillo like we did last year – the recipe is here.

Et nous avons ramasser des coings pour faire la pâte à coing – la recette est ici.

The basket is one I brought back from the Basque country, handmade from chestnut by an old man.

>August harvest and preserving tomatoes / La récolte d’août et conserver les tomates

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Yesterday’s harvest. The Borlotti beans are infested with some kind of grub and we had to throw away about a third of them. I cooked the good ones and put them into a tomato sauce which we’ll eat cold as a salad tomorrow. I’ve made the Roma tomatoes into tomato purée, using the method I used last year. It saves space on the shelves since two big trays of chopped tomatoes were reduced down to five jars.

Le récolte d’hier. Les haricots Borlotti ont une sorte de larve dedans et on a dû en jéter un tiers. Je les ai cuits et les ai mis dans une sauce tomate pour manger fraiche comme une salade demain. J’ai fait de la purée de tomate avec les Romas, la mème recette de l’année dernière.

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I made chutney with the courgettes, using a recipe from MaryAthenes’ blog, which you can eat with meat or cheese like a vegetable. I just cut the courgette and onion into pieces, added spices – cinnamon and paprika – and sugar and a jar of last year’s tomato passata, covered with red wine vinegar and simmered it for about an hour, then put it into sterilised jars. I made a similar chutney using the aubergines.

J’ai fait du chutney en utilisant la recette du blog de MaryAthenes, qu’on peut manger comme un légume avec de la viande ou du fromage. J’ai fait un chutney pareil avec les aubergines.

Chillies / Piments rouges

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The red chillies are hanging in the sun to dry. / Les piments rouges sont suspendus pour secher au soleil.

Mussels again / Les moules encore

Tonight we had mussels with Roquefort cheese. We cooked them as usual in a little white wine with some sprigs of thyme and savory, then added chopped Roquefort, some chopped garlic and crème fraiche. They were very good. I had red wine from Roquessels with them, Lo Jardinièr had rosé wine from Gabian.

Ce soir nous avons mangé des moules au Roquefort. Nous les avons cuites comme d’habitude avec un peu de vin blanc et des brins de thym et de sariette. Puis nous avons ajouté du Roquefort coupé en petits morceaux, de l’ail haché et de la crème fraiche. C’était très bon.

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For dessert, the melon in the photo above, with a glass of muscat wine. / Pour dessert, le melon dans le photo dessus, accompagné d’un verre de vin de muscat.

The Guardian environment blog has returned to the question I linked to last week, of whether organic food is nutritionally better than non-organic. After this evening’s supper I am even more convinced than ever that locally grown and produced, sustainable food tastes better and that, as well as the effect of what I eat on the environment, is what matters to me. No food which was full of pesticides and had been transported around the world could ever taste as good as these local mussels, local cheese, local wine and fruit we grew in our garden.

>Planting melons and cucumbers / Planter les melons et les concombres

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We try to grow as much from seed as possible and this year we’ve grown almost all of our 64 tomato plants from seed, some from our own saved seed. But we do buy some plants. This year we shall have to buy pepper plants. We sowed several different varieties in March and they germinated well, but the plants haven’t grown well. All the other gardeners we talk to in Gabian say their plants are the same. It’s been a cold spring.

Ce printemps il a fait froid ici et les poivrons ne poussent pas bien, ni dans notre jardin ni dans les jardins des autres à Gabian. Nous en devrons acheter.

This year, as usual, we’ve also bought Charentais melon and cucumber plants from a local producer, in the market in Gabian. The plants come from Fouzilhon, about 3 kilometres from here, so I don’t mind buying these. The same stall also sells other produce from the same farm: strawberries, chick peas, wine, and melons later in the summer.

Cette année, comme d’habitude, on a acheté aussi des plantes de melon Charantais et de concombre d’un producteur de Fouzilhon (3 kilometres d’ici) qui vient au marché à Gabian. Il vend aussi les fraises, les pois chiches, le vin, et plutard les melons.

Melons and cucumbers need a lot of water so we have put some effort into preparing the ground for them. In January we dug in some goat manure. Now Lo Jardinièr has made a wide bed for the melons, surrounded by a bank of earth so that it can be flooded.

Les melons et les concombres ont besoin de beaucoup d’eau, donc nous avons fait du travail en préparant la terre. En janvier on a mis du fumier de chèvre. Aujourd’hui Lo Jardinièr a fait une parterre large entourée d’un mur de terre afin qu’on puisse l’inonder.

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The plants are protect from snails by collars made of plastic water bottles. / Les plantes sont protégées des escargots par des colliers en plastique.

For the cucumbers we have made three channels where we will put drip-hoses for watering. Between the three channels there are two rows for the cucumbers, which will be supported by frames made from canes and wires. We’ll have eight plants – four we’ve bought and four we’ve grown from seed. The latter are not quite ready to go out yet.

Pour les concombres on a fait trois gouttières où on va mettre des tuyaus pour arroser. Entre les gouttières il y a deux rangs où des cannes et des fils soutiendront les plantes. Il y aura 8 plantes.

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Let’s just hope the snails don’t eat them! / On éspère que les escargots ne les mangeront pas!

Aren’t irises amazing? / Les iris sont extraordinaires!

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Yesterday – a bud with the texture of silk. / Hier – un bourgeon à la texture de soie …..
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Today – this huge flower /
Aujourd’hui – cette fleur énorme.

Iris Night Laughter

>Preparing for winter

>We’ve been eating tomatoes every day for weeks now, but yesterday was the first time we picked a basket full, enough to bottle. Everything seems to be about two weeks later than last year after the cold spring, but yesterday we found 5 kilos of tomatoes were ripe, with about the same again which will be ready in a couple of days’ time. So it was time to start bottling.

Last year we tried many different ways of preserving our tomatoes, ending up with more than 50 jars so that we didn’t buy tomatoes at all, eating our own all through the winter. This time we tried yet another method:

Bottled tomato passata


Roughly chop the tomatoes and remove the stems and tough centres.
Put them in a large saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer until the skins start to come off.
Put the tomato pulp through a mouli legumes until all that is left in the mouli is dryish skin.
Simmer the pulp and juice until it has reduced by half. Bottle in jars which have been sterilised by placing in an oven at 140 degrees C for 10 minutes. Gently pour a little olive oil over the top of the pulp before putting the lid on. This passata can be used in sauces and dishes which require heating. I think it is safer not to eat it without reheating. It certainly keeps well for nearly a year as we have only just finished our jars of last year’s tomatoes.

I had thought that this ‘mouli’ method would be easier than peeling the tomatoes before cooking, but I’m not sure that it does save time or effort. Next time we’ll try peeling them as we did last year.
In the garden at lunchtime we at our first melon: