Tuesday 30 March 2010

The view from Faugères


Snow-topped Mont Canigou, 150 kilometres away


and the rest of the eastern Pyrenees, looking small in comparison.

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A capitelle (left, above), one of the stone shepherds’ or goatherds’ huts which are dotted all over the hills around Faugères.  They were used for shelter.  This one, near the cave cooperative, has been restored by a group of local people who rebuild the stone walls and old buildings around the village.  Down in the valley of the river Orb, the peach trees were in flower near Hérepian (above, right).

Saturday 27 March 2010

Spring flowers, Lezignan onions and wild asparagus


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:
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 …




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

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Spring in the garden at last

The path to the garden


strewn with a confetti of almond blossoms from our neighbour’s tree.

Anemones de Caen
DSC02381 Aubretia, daffodils and grape hyacinths
DSC02384 bees on the apricot blossom DSC02380 and a lizard in the sun.

Sunday 21 March 2010

Look how they’re growing!

I can hardly believe how much our tomato and pepper seedlings have grown in just over a week since I last posted photos of them.  In the daytime they’re out on the balcony in the mini-greenhouses (where the temperature can reach over 30 degrees C in the sunshine), but we bring them in at night.

                   tomato and ……
DSC02348 pepper seedlings today.

and a flashback to eight days ago:

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They’ll need potting in bigger containers in the next day or so and we’re not sure where we’re going to put them all!  But it’s a nice problem to have.

Sunday lunch

DSC02342 We treated ourselves to a pigeon for lunch, cooked with figs which we preserved in Armagnac last autumn, and a sausage meat and cep (boletus/porcini) stuffing.  It was delicious, with the last of this winter’s leeks from the garden.  The recipe is on the Mediterranean cuisine blog.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

No swimming, but plenty of water


The reservoir at the spring above the gardens is full for the first time for a year, and the stream running down from it is rushing with water for the gardens ….

DSC02273 The old building under the wall of the reservoir. DSC02294
DSC02274 One of the mills half way down the hill. DSC02278
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The apricot blossom is opening at last, and it was 20 degrees C when we had lunch in the garden today.  Dare I say that spring is here?

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Monday 15 March 2010

Garden bloggers’ bloom day

Apart from lichen and rust which I think look lovely in the spring sunlight …


….. we have apricot blossom just about to come out (several weeks late this year) …

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…..one lone daffodil and one rather battered-looking anemone (also very late, although one anemone made the mistake of flowering in November!) …..

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…. our neighbour’s almond blossom (cheating a bit, but we can see it over the fence) and the rosemary which has been flowering all winter, even when it was very cold….

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That’s it for the flowers, but we’re still harvesting cabbages, salad leaves (lettuce, lamb’s lettuce and sorrel), as well as herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary, bay).

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Garden bloggers’ bloom day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Saturday 13 March 2010

Saturday sun and mussels

The shell fish producer from Bouziques comes to the village on Thursday afternoons and Saturday mornings, so each week on at least one of those days we usually eat mussels.

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We can never decide which is our favourite mussel dish – it’s usually the one we’re eating now!  Today we grilled them with blue cheese (we used Bleu d’Auvergne, but other blue cheeses would work just as well), white wine, bread crumbs and olive oil.  Now this is another favourite!

The snow has all gone and the weather is warming up a bit again – last night was the first night for over a week when the temperature didn’t drop below freezing.  After lunch it was warm enough to sit outside in the sun with our coffee.  I daren’t say that spring has come because last time I said that we had snow a few days later, but there’s hope of spring.

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Tomatoes and peppers update

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All the varieties of tomatoes have germinated and all the peppers except the Longue d’Espagne (these last were seeds from an old packet belonging to our neighbour).  The two bright green plants in the centre at the top of the right-hand picture are lemon seedlings.  When the sun is on our balconies in the afteroons we put them out in the mini-greenhouses, where the temperature reaches up to 30 degrees C, even when there’s a chilly north wind.