Murielle Iris started Les Sauvages around five years ago but opened a new plot in April 2020 in Cap d’Ail, between Nice and Monaco.
She sells products made from locally grown plants, flowers and herbs for use in cooking, cosmetics or for health.
She also runs masterclasses in which she invites small groups of people to her plot to learn about the plants she grows. She started the courses in 2019 in Cannes but said she had since done five or six at her new plot in Cap d’Ail.
“It has been super. The locals have really responded well to it,” she told The Connexion, who visited her at her garden – a small, angular piece of land with views over the Mediterranean.
Ms Iris said she was still sorting out the plot so that she can offer more workshops, and the aim is to make adults and children more aware of nature. She said she started them after noticing that a lot of people were disconnected from the natural world. “I work in the garden as much as possible but even I need to go for walks in the forest with my dog without doing anything or gathering plants. I need it for my mental wellbeing,” she said.
“People who work at home – it is not easy to do this. We need to understand that for mental wellbeing it is essential to go out and see the trees, to be in nature every day. A half-hour walk as close as possible to nature to let it absorb a little bit of our problems.”
At her new plot of land, you can find peppermint, thyme, wild lavender, nettles, rose hips and other useful plants.
It is not what she is used to, being more of an expert on mountain flora, but she was offered the plot by the Cap d’Ail mayor Xavier Beck, who has supported her project.
“Now that I am working between the mountains and the sea, I realise that they are complementary and it represents the Alpes-Maritimes well,” she said. “It’s great to be able to grow plants normally found along the coast and also the plants from the mountains.”
Her most popular item is eau de fleur d’oranger, which is commonly used in fruit salads, brioches and madeleines.
“It is known everywhere in France,” Ms Iris said. It can also be used to help people relax and to help with digestion.
Many of the products Ms Iris sells are said to have medicinal properties but she stresses that she is not a healer or doctor. “As a herbalist, I do not have the right to sell a plant as a medicine because I am not a pharmacist.
“The plants I sell, I give instructions for use and they are for relieving – or preventing – small ailments.” All of her products are certified bio, meaning she does not use any chemical fertilisers.
She said that checks in France are rigorous and she is visited at least once a year by authorities to make sure that she is in line with the rules.
Among her collection is a spray made from a locally grown “cabbage rose of Provence”, which, due to the vitamin C in it, is good for the skin on your face.
There are also products made from thyme, which grows wild across the Alpes-Maritimes and which can help fight flu-like symptoms and intestinal infections, and also help with asthma.
Her essential oil made of wild fennel can help digestion, combat bloating and help to reduce coughing and inflammation of the respiratory tract.
Ms Iris said 2020 was a tough year for her, due to the pandemic.
“The Cannes market where I usually sell my products was closed March, April and May, I lost at least two-and-ahalf months’ income.”
This year, she is back selling at the Cannes Marché Forville on Saturdays and Cap d’Ail market on Fridays, as well as online.