Thursday, 30 July 2009

Organic food / La nourriture biologique

An article on the Guardian website today continues the argument as to whether organic food is healthier. A new report by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has reviewed the research for the past 50 years and found that there is no evidence that organic food is more nutritious than non-organic food. Whether this is true or not is a subject of debate, but I think that anyway it misses the point. For me, the importance of organic food is not what is in it, but what is NOT in it – the chemicals that are added to food produced by non-organic agricultural methods. The FSA study does not seem to take into account the long-term health effects of these chemicals, or the effects of these toxins on the planet. As the Guardian article concludes, an EU study found that: levels of nutritionally undesirable compounds such as toxic chemicals, mycotoxins and metals such as cadmium and nickel, were lower in organic crops.

Un article sur le site Guardian continue le débat autour de la nourriture biologique. Un rapport nouveau de l’agence des normes de la nourriture britannique (FSA) dit qu’il n’y a pas des preuves que la nourriture biologique est plus nutritive que la nourriture de l’agriculture traditionnelle. Je pense que ce n’est pas le point essentiel. Pour moi, c’est les produits toxiques dans la nourriture de l’agriculture traditionelle qui font du mal à la santé et à la planète à long terme. Comme l’article conclue, une recherche de l’UE a trouvé qu’il y a des niveaux des produits chimiques inférieurs dans les récoltes biologique.

I think we should be sensible about this when choosing our food. I would prefer, ideally, to eat organic local food and I do when I can. But I think it is better for the planet to eat locally grown non-organic food than to transport organic food long distances.

Je pense qu’il faut être raisonnable. Je préfère manger la nourriture biologique et locale, mais c'est mieux manger la nourriture locale et non-bio que transporter la nourriture autour du monde.

Of course, the best vegetables are those you grow in your own garden or those which are locally grown like the fruit which producers sell at the roadside near here or these wonderful basketfuls of produce we saw in Sant Feliu de Guixols market on our recent trip to Catalunya:

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Shading the sorrel / Donner l’ombre à l'oseille

Our sorrel plants were looking a bit dry in the hot weather, so Lo Jardinièr had a good (and free) idea to shade them. Our local shop leaves vegetable crates outside for anyone who wants them to take them away, so he picked up two and used them to cover the sorrel plants. Just enough light gets in through the slats and the plants are now looking green and healthy again.

On a donné un peu d’ombre aux plants d’oseille avec des cageots de l’épicierie.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Plane trees update / Les platanes - mise à jour


At a meeting in the village this week the mayor and the technical staff involved in the project to cut down the plane trees seemed willing to compromise at least. They are willing to consider keeping the trees on one side of the road, while felling those on the other side so that there is room for a pavement and a central reservation in the road. This last 'improvement' is said to be necessary to slow down traffic and protect cyclists, but some of us think that there are other, less destructive ways of doing this.

À un réunion cette semaine il a semblé que le maire et les responsables techniques étaient prêts à faire un compromis - de garder les platanes à un côté de la route et d'abattre les autres pour faire un trottoir et un terre-plein au centre de la route pour faire ralentir les voitures.bien que quelques uns entre nous pensions qu'il y a des autres moyens moins destructifs de faire ça.

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It will be sad to lose half of the remaining trees, but better than losing them all. Although some say that they are dangerous because speeding drivers crash their cars into them sometimes, I would say that is not the fault of the trees. In fact it has been found that when the trees are felled drivers go faster because the trees provide an illusion of speed which makes drivers slow down.

Plane trees are not native to the Mediterranean region, but they do adapt well to the dry conditions and shade the roads in summer.


This plane tree at St-Guilhem-le-Désert not far from here is said to be the biggest in France. I took this photo a few years ago when we visited the village. / Le plus grand platane en France à St-Guilhem-le-Désert.

This whole project of road 'improvements' and tree felling will have to be watched carefully to make sure that no more trees than is necessary are destroyed. We need to keep these old trees which were planted over 100 years ago - for the sake of the environment and the character of the village. It is an old village and some of the older inhabitants have long memories of these trees. Most of us do not want a 'suburban' look imposed on a rural wine-making village.

Summer harvest / La récolte d'été


We're harvesting a lot of tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers and aubergines now. We've made ratatouille to preserve for the winter. / On ramasse beaucoup de tomates, courgettes, concombres et aubergines maintenant. On a fait de ratatouille pour garder pour l'hiver.

The biggest courgette in this photo was hiding under the leaves so we'd let it grow too big - it was almost a marrow, but still sweet and tender. Lo Jardinièr cooked it this evening: cut it up and roasted it with sweet onion, roughly crushed the pieces, added thyme, garlic and cubes of feta cheese and put it back in the oven until the cheese browned. We ate it with tomato and basil salad. A delicious supper!

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Courgette, cuite au four avec d'oignon doux et du fromage feta et du thym, et servie accompagnée d'une salade de tomates et basilic.

Monday, 20 July 2009


Following our problem with too many courgettes a couple of weeks ago, we now have another nice problem – a lot of aubergines!  /  Suite à notre problème de trop de courgettes il y a deux semaines, maintenant nous avons un autre bon problème – beaucoup d'aubergines!


They’re difficult to photograph … / elles sont difficile de photographer …

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but on five plants we have about 45 aubergines of different sizes.  /  Mais sur cinq plants nous avons vers 45 aubergines de differents grosseurs.

They’re the tastiest we’ve ever grown and we’re eating them fried, frittered, barbecued and puréed to make baba ganoush.  Now that the tomatoes are ripening we’ll be making jars of ratatouille or chichoumeille to store for the winter.  /  Elles sont les plus savoureuses que nous avons jamais cultivé et nous les mangeons poelées, grillées, en beignets et en purée pour faire le baba ganoush.  Les tomates murissent maintenant donc on va faire la ratatouille ou chichoumeille en bocaux pour garder pour l’hiver.

DSC07501 The cherry and yellow pear tomatoes look good in a bowlful of Occitan colours!  /  Les tomates cerises et jaune poire sont bonnes dans un bol plein de couleurs occitanes!



Last week I picked our first Borlotti beans to add to a salad (the recipe is on the Mediterranean cuisine blog).  I think I picked some of them too early, though, as the beans hadn’t developed their speckled appearance.

La semaine dernière j’ai ramassé les premiers haricots Borlotti pour ajouter à une salade (la recette est sur le blog de la cuisine mediterranéenne). Mais je les ai ramassés trop tôt,

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The pods should look like the one above rather than the greener one below.  / Les cosses doivent être comme celle au dessus, pas plus verte comme l'autre.

One thing we won’t be doing with any of our produce is wasting it or throwing it away.  Our friend Drew who comments on this blog sometimes has sent me a link to a horrifying collection of photographs on the Guardian website which show some of the food which is thrown away every day.  What a terrible waste!  Anything we can’t eat we give away, freeze or preserve in some way.  One photo which made me exclaim out loud showed tomatoes, courgettes and peppers thrown out by an organic shop in Sussex - ‘Why not make ratatouille?’ I shouted at the screen!  I think that especially when you grow your own food you value it more because you know the effort that has gone in to producing it.  But it’s ingrained in me – my ancestors on both my parents’ sides of the family were poor country people who couldn’t afford to waste food.  I still have my great-grandmother’s wooden bread board with the words ‘Waste not’ carved around the border.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Spanish breakfast in the garden / Un petit déjeuner espagnol au jardin


The tomatoes are ripening and the best time of day to work in the garden is the early morning before it gets too hot.  This morning in the garden we picked tomatoes straight from the plants to make the breakfast we’ve had in Catalunya and in Andalucia: peeled, chopped tomatoes with salt and olive oil on bread.  A wonderful start to the day!

Les tomates murissent et la meilleure heure du jour pour travailler au jardin est le matin avant qu’il fait trop chaud.  Ce matin nous avons ramassé des tomates pour faire le petit déjeuner que nous avons mangé en Catalogne et en Andalucia: des tomates pelées et hachées avec du sel et de l’huile d’olive sur des tranches de pain.

Today’s harvest / La récolte d’aujourd’hui

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Haricot beans, courgettes, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and aubergines.  The Ananas tomato on the left above weighed 430 grams.

Plane trees update / Les platanes – mise à jour

There are rumours that it may be even worse than we feared and that the felling of plane trees in the village is part of a wider plan to cut down all the plane trees in the Hérault and Aude départements.  There will be a meeting next week to discuss the situation and what we can do about it.

On dit que peut-être c’est pire que nous avons craint et qu’il y a un project d’abattre tous les platanes dans l’Hérault et l’Aude.  Un réunion aura lieu la semaine prochaine pour discuter ce qu’on peut faire.

Sunday, 12 July 2009


Like many villages in southern France Gabian has avenues of plane trees lining the roads leading into the village.  They are beautiful and they provide much-needed shade in summer.  Some of the trees are also very old – many over a hundred years old.  Last week in Gabian we lost some of these plane trees to needless destruction.

Comme beaucoup de villages dans le Midi à Gabian il y a des platanes aux bords des routes qui mènent au village.  Cette semaine nous en avons perdu quelques uns à cause d'une destruction inutile.

At the public meeting when the plans for the new housing development were presented we were told that four or five trees would be felled to make room for a roundabout.  Last week workmen began to cut down healthy trees … and more trees … until a demonstration of inhabitants stopped them, for the moment.  Nineteen trees now lie at the side of the road as sad piles of logs.  The remaining trees now have posters stapled to them demanding a referendum and saying ‘Don’t touch my plane tree’ and ‘I am more than 100 years old – don’t cut me down’.  I hope that the protest will change the minds of the mayor and the municipal council, persuade them to keep their word and stop this massacre of our trees.

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In the garden / dans le jardin

We’re harvesting aubergines, peppers, courgettes, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes and our neighbours’ plums which make wonderful jam.

On récolte les aubergines, les poivrons, les courgettes, les concombres, les tomates cerises et les tomates Roma.  Et on cueille les prunes de nos voisins qui sont très bon pour la confiture.

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Saturday, 4 July 2009

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

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!


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.
The sunflowers are blooming.
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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