Today I’m offering you a fully fragrant discovery to be enjoyed in full colour; come with me and let’s get away from it all with the plants at the heart of the Corsican identity: Scrub, wild grasses, fruit trees and flowers … Follow me down the island’s less travelled roads and discover a flora that’s both rich and fragrant. We’ll also discover another side to Corsican springtime activities: when the island’s vegetable gardens open their gates, they reveal a big piece of Corsican village history. “L’ortu di babbone”, meaning “our grandparents’ garden” was once vital in helping put food on the family table and all sorts of fruits and vegetables were grown there; they were an integral part of the Corsican village landscape. But while these ancestral gardens have not been needed for the actual sustenance of those cultivating them for quite some time now, they nevertheless represent a return to the basic values of “eating well, eating better”. To each their method and to each their tools! While there are a thousand ways to plant, sew, hoe and water, these gardeners are united by one thing: generosity, passion, and the feeling of achieving something useful. And I’m grateful to Michel, Jean-Luc and Pierre for inviting me into their little corners of paradise! And to Marc Antoine for his lovely mulching. All live in Santa Lucia di Mercuriu in the Bozio region, Central Corsica.
At this time of year, the seedlings are the big stars of the garden...arranged in little pots or jars and stored in a warm greenhouse, sheltered from the April weather: Tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, aubergines, and carrots … everything is prepared so it’s ready for planting in early summer. Even last year’s onions are planted so they can be eaten fresh from June onwards. As for the day’s harvests, they’ve produced swiss chards, onions, leeks, and aromatic herbs to satisfy the foodies! Jean Luc offers me a handful of Swiss chard leaves while telling me that in times gone by, everyone in the village had their own garden. “My favourite are the fruit trees … look over there at the two cherry trees about to …”. With vast knowledge on the subject, you could listen to him for hours. He knows the aromatic plants off by heart and grows wild grasses, telling me “I don’t call them weeds because they all nourish the earth”.
I can see that Michel’s garden has recently been hoed. Lined with artichokes and looking onto a chestnut grove it is south-facing and wastes no time in offering up its best produce: onions, lettuce, swiss chards, strawberries, aubergines, and more artichokes. “My mother instilled in us a love for good produce from our own gardens” he tells me … “she made herb tarts for the whole family to feast on … Here, take some fresh onions and lettuce to have with some sardines”. What’s great about these visits is that you never leave empty handed! Even Eddy the dog was granted exceptional access to enter the garden with me....
As his father did before him Pierre keeps a garden of immaculate precision. Looking over the “Paisone” of Santa Lucia di Mercuriu but also over the hamlet of Pian di Vallu … Furrows and planting squares seem to have come straight out of a skilful algorithm! An impressive strawberry patch suggests that spring will be fruity with fruit salads galore! Culombu the dog seems to watch over the property … Pierre’s garden will undoubtedly reward him generously for the time put into its cultivation!
Thank you all for hosting me in your gardens ... And a good harvest!