Monday 28 September 2009

Farm Bio Lous Selces

Going north up the hill from Aspiran towards Lieuran-Cabrières the road flattens out after 1.5 Km and to the right la ferme bio Lous Selces comes into view; the long polytunnel gives it away. The setting may look idyllic with views for miles around, but this must be the windiest place in the commune and natural shade is non-existent. The ground here is limestone – seashell fossils can be spotted everywhere in the rocks and soil. It needed compost, actually sourced from local recycled biodegradable waste, to make it fertile. An overriding reason for the location is the spring after which the farm is named, Lous Selces is Occitan and means the willow trees.

2007 was the first season for Roselène and Sirik Andringa who live on the spot with their two young boys, two dogs, several cats, occasional sheep and guinea fowl plus over 100 laying hens. Produce is seasonal – radishes, young garlic, lettuces, carrots, courgettes, aubergines, cucumbers, endless varieties of tomatoes, beans, peas, new potatoes to name a few. As well as the elements to battle crops are frequently attacked by moles, mice and rabbits.

You can buy produce late afternoon on Wednesdays and Fridays. Sirik also runs a stall at the Pezanas Marché Bio Saturday mornings.

Sunday 13 September 2009


The best wild fruit to be found around Aspiran is figs. They beat mulberries for diversity and speed of picking. Sadly apricots et al don’t seem to grow wild here. Quinces are insect riddled and pomegranates seriously seedy.

There are quite a few fig trees about, although many seemingly produce nothing or fruit that rots before it ripens. Edible figs are around from July to October and these six varieties were found on lane side trees within 3 Kms of the village in mid-September. Despite a book on figs and of course Internet searches, identifying species from pictures is challenging as appearance depends on the degree of ripeness; all figs start off a soft green colour. A visit to an arboretum of fig trees down the road at Nézignan-l'Évêque last year raised more doubts than answers on identification.

The bounty

The green ochre specimins on the top right could well be the Marseillaise variety and they’re delicious but prone to fermenting quickly when ripe (hours not days) so don't keep. The large ones on the bottom left match Madeleine des Deux Saisons characteristics because of their size and unbeatable sweet succulent eating. The grey cinder coloured figs top-centre look like photos of Grise de Saint-Jean and are also amazingly sweet. The central lime-green ones are harder to identify but I'll go for Sucre Vert as the trees are large and incredibly productive. They're also the last to ripen and go on producing the latest. With a slightly less sweet taste plus the quantity to be had they make fine jam.

The deep purple ones at the front could be one of several varieties, while the marble sized pile to their right are probably from a particularly water stressed tree. Either way, these noir varieties dry without fermenting making concentrated sweets to keep, if that's possible.

Saturday 12 September 2009


It hasn’t rained here significantly since sometime in June and August brought a mini canicule that's led to a prompt 2009 harvest. This is in stark contrast to 2008 when hail and heavy rain struck the commune on the night of 4th September after a relatively cool summer. The lack of rain has resulted in smaller grapes and for someone who scrumps wild figs the same botanical stress applies. The grape growers in the village who supply the declining co-op will be receiving less income as they are paid by volume and not for the quality of their harvest. Last year they would have at least had some compensation payment for the hail. Friends who live in the road to the co-operative say the number of tractors passing with their harvest has declined over the years.

One aspect I love is the heady grape and yeast fermentation smells oozing from the winery. This picture shows grape bunches being deposited on to a below-ground vat that weighs the grapes before gently transporting them to the winery to be pressed.
Another year, another discharge