Posts tagged potager
Chef Berard at La Bastide des Saveurs
Gracious Chef Réne Bérard

Gracious Chef Réne Bérard

In hot pursuit of cold rosé wines, my husband, John, and myself found ourselves in the fairytale region of southern Provence near the Bandol area. It is breathtakingly beautiful much, like the lower Rhône Valley with medieval hilltop villages and rugged rolling landscapes, with the blissful addition of the glistening Mediterranean in your sight.

We stayed in the hilltop village of La Cadiere-d'Azur, where some of the village's defense walls date back to the 13th Century still stand. By recommendation we stayed at the Hotel Bérard, a quaint family-owned and managed hotel that also boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant. In fact, father, René Bérard, and his son, Jean-François are the chefs.

In my research I noticed on their website, Bérard Hostellerie, there was a property in a garden setting, La Bastide des Saveurs, in which they offered cooking classes, sommelier food and wine pairings, and special events. I innocently asked if we could see the garden at La Bastide des Saveurs--thinking it was a grand vegetable garden. The tour was arranged and the next morning Chef Rene Berard personally met and escorted us the three kilometers to his property.

Yes, La Bastide des Saveurs was a grand vegetable garden or potager and so much more to my surprise and delight! It proved to be one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen, mixing herbs, flowers, and vegetables together. Typical of a potager is a focal point, pathways, and divided parts of garden planted in herbs, vegetables, and flowers. Arches of happy blooming roses billowed along the pathways. I saw one of my favorite climbing roses over and over in full glory, the lovely Pierre de Ronsard, or better known in the United States, as the climbing Eden rose.

Arches of Roses in His Potager

Arches of Roses in His Potager

Chef Berard was so gracious to detail and explain how he used these herbs and vegetables in his cooking. Chef Berard speaks a bit of english, and I speak a bit of french, but we were definitely speaking the common language of "cooking from the garden." On this beautiful morning, the light and landscape added dramatic drama to this incredible garden. I thought to myself, this must be one step away from heaven.

Staked Spiral Tomatoes

Staked Spiral Tomatoes

Chef Berard showed us how he plants many different varieties of tomatoes, and how he successfully stakes them individually, and anchors them with end poles. I must try and find this tomato pole for next year's growing season.

Provence Fountain, Olive Trees and Lavender

Provence Fountain, Olive Trees and Lavender

Everything was spectacular about this property, down to the Provencal fountain holding court amongst the olive trees, lavender, and iceberg roses. I highly recommend looking into cooking classes at La Bastide des Saveurs. Chef Berard will customize cooking classes for a group of six or more. You can find more detailed information at Hotel Berard.

Zucchetta Tromba D'Albenga Squash

Climbing Zucchetta Tromba D'Albenga Squash Vertical gardening is a hot trend right now, and an easy way to grow one of my favorite squashes, the climbing Zucchetta Tromba D'Albenga. No more space in your garden, try planting your seeds at the base of a fence or an arbor. It is a multifaceted squash, beautiful in it's vining fashion and prolific in it's numerous elongated squash fruit. It's squash quickly can reach 15" and longer.

This Italian heirloom beauty is a great sweet-flavored green summer squash if picked young, or keep it on the vine, and it turns into a toffee colored, slightly nutty tasting winter squash. Seeds are found in the bottom bulbous portion of the squash fruit, hence it is ideal for sautéing or stuffing. It's huge yellow squash blossoms are delicious and can be eaten, too.

I started my Zucchetta Tromba D'Albenga squash easily from seed in the spring, and then transplanted it into my garden as thriving seedlings. It takes the heat well, and seems adaptable for most climates. One of the  online  sources  for Zucchetta Tromba D'Albenga is Baker Heirloom Seeds.

I've even saved my toffee-colored Zucchetta Tromba D'Albenga squash for fall decorations amongst my pumpkins. It's shape adds a nice contrast to round pumpkins, and fall gourds.

Please share if you have grown Zucchetta Tromba D'Albenga in your garden. Please comment on your favorite squash to grow.

Do You Grow Fava Beans?

Colorful Fava Beans I generally plant fava beans in my potager every year. I think it is because they remind me of Europe. Fava beans were a staple in northern Europe before the introduction and popularity of the potato. When I'm in Europe, I see fava beans for sale at outdoor markets, and mentioned often on restaurant menus. While fava beans have been cultivated in Europe for centuries, fava beans are relatively new to the American farm, market, and garden.

I absolutely adore their catchy black and white flowers which remind me of black-eyed peas. Oh yes, and I love their slightly nutty buttery taste, too. Fava beans are also known by the names; Broad beans, Windsor beans, English beans, and a few others. (Please note, in some cases, a few people can be allergic to, or have an enzyme deficiency to fava beans. I have never experienced this or heard of this personally before, but have seen it in my reading).

In mild climates such as Southern California, I sow my fava beans in the fall, and patiently wait 150-180 days later, for harvest in spring. Fava beans are a legume, and require a long, cool growing season. Fava beans are also considered a beneficial cover crop, because they are high in nitrogen, and return nitrogen back, enriching the soil where they are grown.

I plant my fava bean seeds in a large full sun plot in my potager, where their height won't affect my other growing vegetables. Seeds need to be planted about 2" deep, and 6" apart. Allow for about 24" between your rows. Mature fava bean plants, do not require staking or support, and can reach 4' to 5' high yielding apple green pods, 6" to 8" inches long, with 5 to 7 beans in each pod.

The best reason for growing fresh fava beans is their wonderful taste and versatility. You can utilize young tender fava bean pods whole, or shelled when mature. Fava beans can be used in light spring pastas, hearty soups, pureed as a dip, sauteed as a vegetable, or used as a substitute for lima beans. It seems like every year, I see yet another creative way to use fava beans in spring recipes.

If you are not familiar with fava beans, I whole-heartedly recommend growing them sometime. Fava bean seeds are easy to find through your favorite seed catalogs. Territorial Seed and Botanical Interests both carry fava beans. In the garden, fava beans are quite striking in appearance, easy to grow and cultivate, add nitrogen back to your soil, and reap a tasty spring legume.

Please share if you  are familiar with, and grow fava beans in your garden? Please comment on your favorite way to enjoy fava beans.

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Grow Your Vegetables Year-Round

The Humble Potager Do you wish you could extend the "fresh vegetable concept" of summer throughout the year by growing your vegetables year-round. Well, you can, and it is much easier than you think. It is an age-old concept borrowed from the French, called the "potager" or literally translated "soup garden".

In France, a potager may be very formal and considered a jewel on an estate or situated on the succinctly elaborate grounds of a chateau. A potager may also be very humble, next to a small farmhouse in the countryside, by railroad tacks in the suburbs, or in urban plots outside a nearby town. Wherever they are located or however they are designed, they have been a foundation for French food culture, and the French tradition of eating seasonal fresh foods.

A potager is a French-style kitchen garden composed mainly of seasonal vegetables and herbs. A potager may also include a few fruit trees, and even seasonal flowers. The sole purpose of a potager is to provide a year-round supply of fresh daily produce for a family or a small group of people. It is usually a small and manageable plot of 10' x 10', or 9' x 12' in size.

A potager is divided up into plots that are individually managed and rotated as the seasons unfold each year. It requires some planning, management, knowledge of your specific growing seasons, and knowledge of what you are growing, on your part to be successful with a potager.

In America, generally speaking, our traditional backyard vegetable garden consists of planting the garden in the spring, reaping fresh produce over the summer, and sometimes utilizing the abundance of the harvest by freezing or preserving for use over the winter, or for another time.

Americans, unlike the French and other Europeans, do not normally have a vegetable garden year-round. This might be changing now. One of the hottest food trends today is "growing your own vegetables". Gardeners such as yourself, want to keep the "fresh produce concept" alive after the summer has waned. We all know that fresh strawberries out of a morning garden for breakfast, or fresh green beans harvested still warm from the sun, are a delight to the senses and incomparable.

We are also being influenced by active local organic farms supplying restaurants and farmer's markets with new and exciting types of produce to explore and enjoy. Their underlying message is "eat locally".

This is an introduction to the concept of the "potager". Follow along as I discuss further the elements of the potager, how to implement a potager, how to manage, and what you might want to plant throughout the four seasons in your potager. For a related post on vegetable gardening basics at VintageGardenGal see, 7 Basic Steps of Successful Vegetable Gardening.

Do you have a potager now? Where did you first see a potager? What is your motivation for vegetable gardening year-round?