dimanche 24 octobre 2010

C'est la saison des things that grow on trees

At last, the return of the blog; Once again I must tender certain apologies for a debatably irksome lapse in the dear old chronicle.

This is not because I've been terminally bone idle, I may add, though that's a convincing enough reason.

Actually I've been trying to write a novel, hence the shortage of time to beat the keyboard to death for other reasons, however pressing.

But I cannot help noticing how full autumn delivers so richly on its promise. The suitably delightful pic shows girlfriend Claire jamming in the fig factory. The fact is that nature doesn't half come up with the cadeaux at this time of year.

We've had hundreds of figs, buckshee, gratis and for nothing; both the luminously ripe, purple couilles de pape (alias the Pope's bollocks as they're irreverently known here), and also the tangy green figs; firmer, a little less liquid but equally sweet and delicious.

For some reason no-one seems to want them but us which, given that the dried ones are a princely €6 a packet down at Intermarche, is just a tad bizarre. The bowlful here ended up as half a dozen pots of confiture de figues, and dashed good it is too. Obviously there's a limit to how many you can eat fresh in a day, figs being notably good for the system and all that. Alimentary, my dear Watson.

We also couldn't resist a foray in search of les chataîgnes, or sweet chestnuts. These grow in their billions but a few kilometres away. In days gone by it was difficult to grow cereals en haute vallée de l'Aude so they used to make chestnut flour. This is how we ended up with great woods full of chestnut trees. Nuts for flour, wood for fires and building.

Wander through the woods, and the sense of fertility is amazing, there are ripe chestnuts everywhere. They're even falling on your head; round spiky husks, raining down from the trees, bursting open to reveal three nuts, usually two good big ones and a little thin one like a packing piece.

If you're feeling flush and lazy, you can buy them at €5 a kilo on the markets, but when you can collect half a bucket for the modest expenditure of half an hour and a pleasant potter in the leaf litter; why waste your money?