I am in the Berry region of France, about three hours’ drive south of Paris, where I am preparing an itinerary for a garden and cultural tour to the Dordogne and Berry regions of France for next year. I have always enjoyed my planning work, but there is an exception this year. It is 38 degrees Celsius in Bourges and will be for four days. For obvious reasons our tour will be in late May to early June.
One of the obvious results of the heatwaves that Europe is experiencing, and has experienced for the past four years at least, is a growing awareness among gardeners of our changing climate, and the need to cater for this with our plantings. I wrote in my August newsletter last year about the Symposium that I had attended in England, where all speakers were offering well-educated thoughts on this subject.
Not far from my home in Normandy is a delightful garden, Jardin Pays d’Auge, which I first visited seventeen years ago when it was in its earliest stage of development. I saw some excellent examples of suitable plants doing well in a hot environment.
Photo 1: Valerian doing very well at the entrance. M. Long
Photo 2: Valerian again, thriving at Jardin Pays d’Auge. M. Long
Photo 3: The majority of these plants are in the conifer family and give good shape and colour contrast. M.Long
In the tiny village of Giverny, where Monet’s house and garden are situated, a young Frenchman who recently spent some time in Tasmania, has set up a nursery in the grounds of a café.
Photo 4: The new nursery at Giverny. M. Long
Photo 5: Nursery. M. Long
Photo 6: Nursery. M. Long
And now from 38°C to winter soup!
Persian-style Winter Barley Soup: Marilyn McRae
This is a perfect winter soup! I use pearl barley but you can use pot barley and reduce the amount by 1/4 c.
If you don’t wish to use onions for Fodmap reasons then add an extra leek or two, using the green parts.
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 leeks, finely sliced
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 1 c pearl barley
- 1.5 litres stock **
- juice of 2 lemons
- 2 tbsp sour cream
- handful chopped parsley
- salt and pepper
In a large, heavy based pot, heat the oil and gently fry the onion if using until translucent.
Add the leeks and carrots and continue cooking over a gentle heat until softened. Add the barley and the stock and bring to boil. Half-cover with the lid, reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, stirring now and then to prevent sticking, until the mixture is thick and ingredients are beginning to break down. (Add more stock or some boiling water if it’s cooking down too quickly.)
Pour in half the lemon juice and continue cooking until the barley is soft.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the sour cream and most of the parsley.
Add remaining lemon juice to taste and season with salt and pepper.
Serve sprinkled with the remaining parsley. Add a dollop of sour cream if you wish, perhaps with a sprinkle of finely shredded lemon zest? though this is not, I imagine, a Persian-style addition!
** The original recipe called for lamb stock, something I would have to specifically make so I’ve tended to use chicken or sometimes a well-flavoured vegetable stock. You could also use beef stock, of course. Or lamb!
I have added sprigs of thyme as I’m frying off the vegetables and then removed them before adding the stock (to avoid any bitterness). This is not traditional, I just like the combination of leeks with thyme!
Our relaxed country garden started twenty nine years ago. In the early days I had very little gardening experience and no vision for the site, but an interest in plants was quickly developing. Over the years, with much trial and error, a garden has emerged which we and our visitors do enjoy.
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