Food and Drink in the Languedoc

Joan Lewis

Food and Drink in the Languedoc

Food: From the olives, saffron; peaches and cherries of our very own valley to the vast oyster beds of the Etang de Thau , you will find abundant flavours and gourmet delights in the department of Hérault. I will be sharing some of our local produce with you  over coming months , so watch this space.

Huitres crues
Huitres de Bouzigues
Ripening grapes
Ripening grapes

Wine Visit this part of Hérault and you will see endless fields of vines stretching from the foothills of The Massif Central where we have made our home, to the flat plains bordering The Mediterrnean Sea . I will take you to visit a few of the countless wine producers in this area, from tiny domaines to grand internationally renowned enterprises. Find a glass, and watch this space.

The Tomato

Whether it is grown in France, Guernsey, Morocco or The Canaries, the tomato is universally liked , and I dare say is on your shopping list throughout the year, as it is mine. However, nothing lives up to the taste of one's own home grown tomatoes. Small and sweet the cherry tomatoes are first to appear, followed by the round, fat  St Pierre, which we grow for salads because of its exceptional flavour, and the oval shaped Roma which is mainly for preserves. This year we are trying the Italian tomato San Marzano, with its exquisitive tear drop form..  All year round I imagine the delights of late summer, when the tomatoes are ripening on the vines and our table is graced with tomatoes in some shape or form. There is absolutely nothing better than a well seasoned tomato salad, drenched in our own locally produced olive oil and adorned with emerald green basil.

Tomato Salad
Home-grown Tomato Salad
Sun dried Tomatoes
Tomatoes drying in the sun

Tomatoes , tomatoes, tomatoes.

Early September is one of the busiest times of our year when basketfuls of tomatoes are taken to the kitchen to be dealt with. Some will need to be preserved, so out will come our faithful Italian passata maker. First of all the tomatoes will be reduced slightly, so the flavour of the passata will be intense when finally  added to soups, casseroles and pasta sauces throughout the coming winter. Others will be cut in half and with a sprinkling of oil, perhaps a little balsamic vinegar, muscovado sugar or herbs they will be very slowly dried , either in the sun, or often in a very low oven. These are a perfect  reminder of summer during the long  winter ahead. And of course many will be eaten just as they are, while we can still enjoy them fresh from the vine.

Harvest Time

But all is not well in the potagers(or vegetable plots) of Hérault this year. When I take our basket to be filled as usual , I return with  only a few red fruit scattered on the bottom. I look anxiously at the remaining tomatoes, but they remain stubbornly small and green and cling to the vines. When we talk to neighbours, for everyone around here has their own 'potager,' they shake their heads  and grumble. No one knows what is wrong with the tomatoes this year. There has never been a season like it.

But come spring B. will be selecting tomato seeds from the seed catalogues as usual, and buying bundles of healthy tomato plants from  in early summer to supplement his own seedlings. For no one who has ever grown their own tomatoes would happily give that up.

 

A previous Harvest
A previous Harvest.