French food focus - June 2019

A focus on food in France. This month, veggie-boxes, a pyramid shaped goat cheese and ‘haut de gamme’ olive oil

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Meet the producers

Cristina Powell has a market garden near Rochechouart in Haute-Vienne which she has been developing since 2017. “First we had to clear the land and then last year I experimented with different heritage varieties to see what would grow best here.”

She grew up on a small-holding, and always kept allotments in the UK, so knows what she’s doing. “I use heritage seeds because then you can propagate from the plants you grow.”

This year she has started selling veggie boxes. A one-person box contains 2-3 kilos of vegetables and costs 10 euros. “The weight varies because cabbages and cauliflowers are so much heavier than beans and garden peas, for example.

But I guarantee that each box will contain a minimum of six different vegetables – lettuce, parsnips, carrots, Swiss chard, potatoes, and later on courgettes, tomatoes and other summer vegetables.”

She says she will deliver if there are three or more customers in a village, but otherwise people will need to collect their boxes. “If neighbours get together I’m happy to deliver three or more boxes to one address.”

She also produces herbs for drying, as well as plants and plug plants for other people’s gardens, growing everything from seed using sustainable, permaculture methods.

“I have perennials, annuals, medicinal plants and herbs, all grown using natural compost and fertiliser. And all grown in real soil – you’d be surprised how many plants are not!”

Cristina is in the process of getting accreditation as an ‘organic’ producer, and is very keen on keeping things natural. “I have a flock of chickens and ducks who move about the land so they always have fresh vegetation to eat – and, of course, they fertilise the land for us in the most natural way possible.”

She is a big believer in ‘permaculture’ which started off as ‘permanent agriculture’, a farming approach designed to work in tandem with nature, and says it’s not just a hippy ideal but a sensible, sustainable way of producing healthy food while respecting the land.

She is available for consultations, and says the majority of clients find a one-off visit to their garden, to suggest the best place for plants and also come up with permaculture solutions for any given patch of land.

Artisan cheese of the month: Pouligny Saint-Pierre

Made in the Centre-Val de Loire department of Indre, and named after the village Pouligny Saint-Pierre, this goat’s cheese was first produced in the 18th century and is known as ‘the Pyramid’ or ‘the Eiffel Tower’ for obvious reasons.

Made from unpasteurised milk before being left to ripen from two to five weeks, its rind is natural and it takes on blue mould flecks. The texture is crumbly and smooth while on the palate it is initially a little sour.

To taste and buy in situ, visit producers Patricia, Jean-Luc and Benjamin Forand at EARL de Vesché; 02 54 37 25 62 or by email

Local speciality: Provence olive oil

Olive oil has been produced in Provence since Greek settler days, and comes in three main types: fruité vert (green fruity), fruité mûr (ripe fruity) and fruité noir (black fruity).

Currently fashionable as a haut de gamme (high end) oil for use in salads is fruité mûr, with its peppery freshness and often hints of banana.

Family-run Château Virant in Lançon de Provence produces some using mainly Salonenque and Aglandau olives.

Available to buy from