That’s it I am packing up and leaving town. I have just watched Monty Don’s French gardens, the gourmet gardens on the big screen and am completely captivated. The sunshine, the lavender, the wine, the chateaux, the wine, the abundant vegetable gardens, the wine. I could quite easily be persauded to live in the beautiful Cevennes nunnery growing cucumbers and pumpkins, lost in quiet contemplation. And just think, no more bad hair days just put on the habit and head on out. Perfect!
The idyllic way of life portrayed by Monty, nestled into his familiar straw hat and rattling around the countryside in a 2cv, may be contrived for the purpose of television, but it fills me with longing none the less (no not for Monty for the country lifestyle you naughty thing !).
I was fascinated by the extraordinary differences between the growers and their gardens. Villandry with its stunning parterres filled with a colourful array of edibles, all of which are thrown away when they have served their visual purpose, left me cold. In contrast the grower who is continuing his families tradition of growing onions on terraces made my heart sing. He explains why it works with just one simple word terroir.
Terroir is the geography, geology and climate of a certain place and how this interacts with plant production, in short it is a sense of place. The onion grower knows his soil, he knows the climate, he can pretty much guarantee that his crop will thrive. Pardon the pun but this man knows his onions!
Some of the soil suprised me, dry, dusty and peppered with stones a far cry from the richly tilled soil I grow my veggies in, yet their produce looks scrumptious. Bountiful beefsteak tomatoes growing outdoors, strawberries like clusters of shiny rubies, courgettes and cucumbers prolific and tasty.
Warmth and sunshine make these plants prosper and not once did I see a slug being washed off a freshly picked lettuce! Is it any wonder the French spend more time eating and drinking than any other nation. I am definitely living in the wrong country.
So yes, Monty has done it again. He has transformed a dull Saturday afternoon and taken me on his travels to some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. A sumptious hour of languid indulgence that has me heading to the channel faster than you can say au revoir !