Friday, October 14, 2011

Let Them Eat Chestnuts

During October in France, especially in the Dordogne region, food falls out of the trees.
This detour from brick oven posts (next one will be on the active community oven in Audrix)  arrives because I have lived in New England most of my life, planting late in spring and harvesting early in fall, thus foregoing winter harvests and certain plants that can't survive the winters here.

Dordogne on the other hand, is a mild climate, diversely planted with fruit trees, grapes, nuts, and with an abundance of volunteer greens that grow and thrive throughout the cold season. The move toward local food production and use that is contrary to mega-farms and the petroleum products that support them, could benefit from some traditions established in Dordogne over the centuries.

One tradition that I appreciated while there is the semi-public access to nut trees, especially chestnuts. These native trees line the roads and the dropped nuts are free for the gathering.  I was told that chestnuts got the people through the worst famines where in combination with simple goat cheese made up a complete diet. I harvested a pile of them.

Walnuts are bit more proprietary and one must ask to harvest a neighbor's crop. In November, walnut buyers converge on the region and any person with a sack or a truckload can sell their walnuts for a bit of extra cash.

Winter greens planted just a month ago were ready for harvest too and wild greens such as nettle, mustard, and cress grew on the edges of walls and fields.

And here lies the conundrum, we plant trees and shrubs to beautify our property, whether suburban or rural.  If we intersperse fruiting trees with our plantings we might find that our yards become small farms.

Vegetable garden is behind the flowers.

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