This little corner of France is as if transplanted from another time in history when life moved more slowly, people cared about simple things and food was at the centre of every day. Even shopping in the supermarket brings pleasant little surprises like the labels on chickens, assuring the customer that they were raised for at least 85 days or even 100 days, in the open air. And the naming of the regions in which all the fruit and vegetables are grown, and realising that most of the fresh produce in the local shops, including the supermarket, is grown in this region - Dordogne, or the next - Lot et Garonne. Other pleasant discoveries include the fact that even the cheapest sheets available in the supermarket, are 100% cotton and that a loaf of bread made with organic flour is 0.75c!
But my favourite site is the potager, nestled into every back yard and piece of vacant land. I crane my head over ancient stone walls to see what is growing and am never disappointed. Such a prospect was what lured us to recently walk down a small laneway in Beaumont - a village about 20km away. That and the sign saying a public toilet was to be found down there! Certaily there was a great vegetable garden but we found something even more wonderful. Well, the toilet was shocking but while Ian sat at the table in the park next to what was once the site of the baths and wash house, waiting for me, he noticed he was sitting under a big, old apple tree and so picked a lovely ripe apple to eat.
We sat a while, marvelling at how rich a green the grass was for late summer and I began to notice what was around us in this little, old park.....fruit trees... and all were ready to pick! Out came the bag I always carry in my handbag and we collected and ate apples, peaches and figs..... just a few of each.... leaving plenty for others (or for us if we go back soon!) This was a delightful experience and could easily happen everywhere in suitable climates but it was especially lovely next to the old spring and public wash house, imagining people over the centuries chatting away while washing their clothes and themselves and collecting water, children climbing up and getting figs and peaches and apples and maybe other fruit from trees now dead. Of course, this was the day I forgot to take my camera!
From our home fruit garden we are now picking a delicious green-skinned fig, lots of cooking apples, a few grapes and loads of Charentais melons. The cumquat is flowering and the little lemon tree is producing its first lemons, in a climate where it has to be taken inside for the winter.
Rhubarb and cherries are in the freezer but the plums and pears did not produce well this year. Luckily the neighbour, Evelyn, has given us several baskets of mirabelle plums which are a superb yellow fleshed variety, as well as some sweet, white peaches from a tree she grew from a stone.
Drying on the shelf of a beautiful dresser that Ian made many years ago are our ongoing collection of fruit stones which we plan to germinate in the hope that some will be as productive as Evelyn's peach. Anybody have any tips for propogating peaches and plums from stones?