Panier of Plenty

The Seasons

Spring arrives on the plains of Roussillon

The seasons offer profound changes, depending on the location.
My home is in the mountains that reach the coast, and at 550 metres
above sea level we have a wealth of variety, from typical garrigue
with wild thyme and lavender, to forests of chestnuts (châtaigners),
hazlenuts (noisetiers), and different species of oak or chêne,
(chêne liège or cork, chêne vert), tilleul, and higher up the mountain,
pines and beech (hêtre). In the garden, agave and roses stand side
by side.

We have no neighbours that are visible, it is Canigou who stands in
our view from the belvédère. He (le Canigou) is there each day as
we marvel at the moon disappearing behind his outline at first light,
or the clouds that touch his head at sunset. Bare in summer and
snow-capped in winter he rises to 2784 metres. When the blossoms
of the nectarines and peaches appear, he is still shrouded in white;
as the bells in each village ring, their ornate forged-iron bell
towers are illumined by his light. As the rays of the sun strike
his facets, light creeps across the plains to wake their inhabitants
– in Roussillon he is a welcome sight, speaking to one and all as
he soars before our eyes. A giant amongst men he calls, “remember to
look to the skies, filled with unlimited space – with possibility
– a reminder of potential and the heights we can reach.”

Canigou at sunrise, with the full moon

Sunset view of Canigou, the belvédère

On the 23rd of June for the Fête de la St Jean, or the summer solstice,
a procession mounts his slopes with fires aglow, celebrating his
provenance as father of us all, yet as everything here is masculine
or feminine, it is ‘la nature’ that adds the embellishments. The mosses
and the ferns that create many layers; the proliferation of flowers and
wild fruiting varieties – sloe berries (prunelles) and rose hips,
elderberries (sureau), tiny apples and pears, figs and quinces, cherries
and fraises des bois – these are the treasures which abound. Learning to
recognise them, and then how to prepare them, is a constant pleasure as
each comes into season. There is always a new surprise – it is only ever
a matter of keeping ‘our eyes wide’ and noticing details; the subtle
changes that signal the harvest.

Our river in winter

The beginning of summer

The seasons govern the rhythm of our lives here, whether we are tending
the garden and ensuring we have a regular flow of water from the river
to fill the basin that feeds the drip system for our vegetables, or off
in the forest filling the panier with nuts or berries. The cellar is
our pantry, brimming with baskets and the wooden cases that store the
preserves, jams and dried goods. Branches of bay leaves hang from a
suspended wrought iron frame and jars of dried mushrooms sit waiting
for the next risotto or cassoulet – everything lies in reserve for
leaner times.

Quince liqueur fermenting

The collection of recipes is slowly growing – thanks to others who pass
on their knowledge; quince liquor is busy fermenting in a hand-blown
glass flask, the large cork bouchon cut from our own woods. Yet it is
first-hand experience that builds true knowledge; the only way is
to experiment, to alter ingredients and adapt to what is increasingly
evident – the weather patterns are extreme and not in line with what
has always been ‘predictable’. Month after month there has been
something outside the perimeters of ‘normal’ as we adjust to the climate;
constant change is the only thing guaranteed, and this has inspired
my ‘diary’. Recording events that have never happened before, I try
to make the best of what comes through our door – the menu is
‘produce driven’ and a constant challenge: what to do with an abundance
of one ingredient, how to create variety, a joy in itself when most of
what we eat comes from our own shelf.

The supermarket is for household essentials; we are no longer dependent
on its fruit and vegetables. And due to a gift of sanglier (wild boar),
our freezer is packed with fine cuts of meat – fresh from hunters
who share their rewards, we are replete with the bounty that comes
from nature.

2 thoughts on “The Seasons

  1. Anna-Maryke and pugs on said:

    Fantastic that you are able to harvest so much from your surrounds! It all sounds so idyllic!

  2. Misty on said:

    I love your writings, they are very soothing
    I could only dream of being in such a beautiful place

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