Friday, 22 October 2010

Salade Sauvage

Poupier (Purslane)
Early spring is the main season for wild salad plants and I'll blog more on that next year. However, the period after the first autumn rains does bring on a few delights. These two are stars on four counts; they have an excellent taste, are fairly easy to find, are quick to pick and easy to prepare for the salad bowl.

Roquette (below) is the most common great wild salad here and also has a long season. It grows on the banks of most small lanes and, unlike many salad plants, the leaves are still tender after the delightful yellow flowers develop. It's more peppery than the shop bought stuff (rocket in the UK) so needs to be mixed with other leaves or just use as a garnish. There's a white variety called "false" roquette that loves the vineyards but has an inferior taste and texture.

Pourpier (above), known as Purslane in the UK, is often stocked by up market London grocers. It's a bit harder to find than roquette and while it also likes vineyards this source is best avoided unless known to be an organic. It has a great crunchy texture with a slightly sour and salty taste.

Roquette (Rocket)

Friday, 15 October 2010

Autumn Yellow Crocuses

These wild autumn crocuses were spotted by the road to Peret. No doubt brought to life after a couple of days rain earlier in the week.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Location Location Location

Before we'd ever heard of Aspiran we spent a week in a small Hamlet near Olargues in the Haut Languedoc. The views across and along the valley of chêne vert forested hills were spectacular and the 1000m plus high Espinouse could be walked up from the back door. Pretty idyllic, but the modest remoteness had drawbacks. The boulangerie was a 20 minute round trip. It took 5 minutes to reach the main east-west valley road and the options were turn left or right. The supermarket was nearly half an hour away. Going north to nowhere, or south to Beziers, involved seriously scenic but narrow winding roads.

By complete contrast, Aspiran sits it rolling foothills nicely between Clermont l'Herault and Pézenas. Montpellier's tramway is just over half an hours drive away, as is central Béziers.

Five roads leave the village and seven neighbouring villages are reached directly without passing through others. An eighth, Belarga, counts when the Herault is low enough to walk over the weir. The A75 (Clermont Ferrand via Millau to Beziers autoroute) skirts the commune but is well away from the village and ensures the RN9 is a quiet local road. There are oak woods, a pine tree wood, garrigue and, of course, vines. Along with a baker are a few other commerces, tabac, post office, pharmacy and two bars. Supermarkets and brico sheds at Clermont are 10 minutes away.

Overall a pretty ideal compromise between open spaces, scenery, services and access to the department's facilities.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010


At the end of September what looks like a hawthorn tree produces fingertip sized pink-red fruits known around here as Pommettes. They have a sweet and quite intense apple taste and the tree, l'Azérolier (Crataegus azarolus), is actually a Mediterranean species of hawthorn and closely related to the apple.

Pommette trees are quite common along the side of chemins (lanes) but it is unusual to find one like this in a relatively exposed windswept location - most of the pommettes have blow off.

We eat them as a sort of dessert equivalent of olives - they have a core of two grape pip like stones.

They can also be cooked and sieved to make an equivalent of apple conserve.