Garlic in the Garden

The Capital of Garlic say the road signs as you approach the town of Piolenc in Provençale Vaucluse, where 2000 tons of Allium sativum are grown each year. On the feast of St John, close to mid-summer day, the town celebrates the ‘Stinking Rose’ with music, a parade, and countless stalls selling garlic in many…

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Vine Leaves

Last year my 25 year-old grape vine decided to leave home. After forming a close relationship with a telephone wire it soon reached half-way across the road and even produced a few bunches of black grapes dangling provocatively above the traffic. In March, it was time to curb its enthusiasm and major surgery was called…

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The Origin of Recipes

Two questions are often addressed to food and cookery writers by readers: ‘Where do your recipes come from? And do you cook them all?’ For almost a decade Felicity Cloake has been answering both these enquiries in impressive style in the Guardian newspaper. She tests, cooks and tastes, then adopts the best workable ideas from…

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Purslane

Every spring, in two large flower pots in my Saint Montan garden, I grow the attractive climbing plant dipladenia, bearing red, pink, or white, trumpet-shaped flowers. Dipladenia grows quickly in the south of France and each plant soon twists its stems around the 2 metre-high tripod in its pot to make an attractive display. By…

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Summer Holiday Dishes

The 14th July, Bastille Day, until the final day of August is the official summer holiday in France. Many enterprises, large and small, close their doors or operate with a skeleton staff for this six week period. Try tracking down a builder, plumber or electrician, and you’re likely to hear a recorded message confirming this…

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Dealing with Drought

When I began to restore the overgrown Jardin du Curé, some years ago,  the fast-flowing ruisseau du Val Chaud provided music while I worked. The cold spring water tumbled noisily over stones and boulders until it reached the larger river in the middle of the village. When it rained, natural springs provided the irrigation for…

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Herbal Alliances

In my first book on herbs, RECIPES FROM A FRENCH HERB GARDEN, I list the twenty herbs from basil to verbena that often play a role – sometimes as stars that top the bill plus others as minor or supporting actors – in the kitchens of France. All culinary herbs have an individual character: in…

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Apéro Hour

Bowls of olives, plates of thinly sliced saucisson sec, and lots of opened bottles greeted us when the local white wines of 2018 were recently launched at the old cave co-operative in Saint Montan. The farmers who grew the grapes were keen to talk as they offered glasses of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and a superb…

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Growing Trees for Free

While he was helping to dig out the well-rotted mixture in one of my compost bins, my grandson spotted dozens of acorns on the ground. My evergreen oak trees, Quercus ilex, that grow wild here in my hillside garden had shed their fruit weeks earlier. Matthew soon filled his pockets to take acorns home to…

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