Le Jardin de Valerie
Back towards Pierre and Laetitia, on the same side is Valerie’s ‘garden’…
‘Le Jardin de Valerie’ is the one of the most enticing stands… Her tables are lined with beautiful baskets laden with luminous green salads, rocket, mini broccolis, mini cabbages, shiny yellow ‘courgettes’/ zucchinis, celeriac, the best potatoes I’ve eaten in a long time and an enticing array of home-made ‘gelees’ and confitures (jams). The jelly made of muscat is a beautiful accompaniment to a chunk of aged ‘brebis’/ sheep’s milk (where are you Vincent?!?… your Brebis de Napoleon was the one of the best cheeses we’ve ever had. You are missed at the markets!).
It’s not officially ‘organic’ produce, but Valerie’s principles are the same – cultivation with full respect for the environment, minimal water use and ‘lutte biologique’/ biological pest control. Compared to a lot of other fruit and vegetable producers you see at the markets, it’s by no means a big stand but in this scale, I’m reminded that all these beautiful vegetables are the product of one woman’s dedication and energy. Having visited Valerie’s ‘potagers’ (vegetable gardens) during an open day late last Summer, I was in awe at seeing the size of the whole thing, knowing that she maintained all of it herself (5 acres), and how much land you need to work to provide for a market stall, let alone your own weekly provisions! For her it’s a 7 day a week job from early morning till dark, but judging by her face she couldn’t be happier.
It’s been nearly two years since Valerie quit her job at the local paper and became a full-time grower and her enthusiasm for her produce is infectious. While I’m glancing over all the varieties of vegetables she’s always ready to share ideas for dishes she’s cooked at home with the same produce. She grows around 40-50 different varities of vegetables, including many ancient varities that you don’t see anymore in the supermarkets. I love buying her baby cabbages and the tiny heads of ‘mini’ broccolis and it’s the first time I’ve ever cooked with vegies like this. The flavours are so sweet and concentrated.
Her plans are ever expanding, she’s very excited about the large orchard recently planted of organic fruit trees which will help contribute to her jellies and jams.
I love shopping at the markets. I’m not able to find absolutely everything to stock the cupboards like I can in the supermarket, but its rewarding to get to know producers like Valerie, Pierre, Jacques and Laetitia and chat about how and why they do what they do.
These people usually have huge smiles on their faces – no matter how cold or hot or early in the morning – and you can see their satisfaction from selling their produce direct to the consumer. It’s also great exchanging recipe ideas and even just talking about the weather. Something we do a lot of around here!