Soil Festivals of France
Around France, the terra firma is blessed with good yield. I found this out the easy way, traipsing through a lavender field in Saint-Remèze as lavender enthusiast Bernard Frizon from the Saint-Remèze Museum leaned over fresh wild herbs perfuming the landscape and divulged a secret.
Southern Ardèche, on the plateau de Gras, the Combes du Coiron and the Ubie valley, arguably rivals the lavender of its southern neighbor, Grasse.
“When farmers first planted lavender in this area it was tough work, ” says Frizon, recounting the back-breaking labour these hardy farmers endured during the 19th century.
Location: 18th arrondissement, Paris
Now in its 79th year, the Montmartre Grape Harvest Festival packs in five days of foodie events that culminate around the fabled neighborhood of Sacre Couer. Favourite past-times include vintage wine sampling from the wines of Clos Montmartre, and snacking around Paris’ largest outdoor table. It’s sure to be a gourmet walk around Sacred Heart like no other. Saturday is the big party day. Costumed revellers in bright green or red hit the winding streets, all part of the Grand Parade Day. You’ll spot the Queen of the Harvest and see traditional folk groups perform ancient medleys.
Location: Collobrières in Maures, Var region
First off, chestnuts are king across many French hamlets, especially during harvest season. Back in the 10th century when the ancient Carthusians settled around the lofty slopes of Maures, they planted teeny marron (chestnut) saplings, which flourished into fabulous chestnut groves, sadly only to be forgotten. Now, Chestnut mania has been revived and production is thriving. Locals gather in Collobrieres on the Sundays of October to celebrate the nutty chestnut revival.
Location: Saillac, Perigord
In the Dordogne valley, the walnut tree of Perigord is like the sistering olive trees to the south—it is ‘the’ tree the locals cultivate. Locals have a saying, too. “Nothing is lost in the walnut of the Périgord region, unless it’s noise when breaking.” The walnut love fest dates back 17, 000 years to the time of Cro-Magnon Man. Archaeologists had fun discovering these fossilized nuts, but we love how walnuts were currency; in the 13th century, farmers paid their debts in walnuts, and later substituted walnut oil as currency. Walnut was like gold, precious. Now for one glorious day, festival goers get to see walnut cultivating demonstrations, check out the groves and sample nutty products as the farmers reminisce about the old days and smile upon the lucrative industry (the southwest region produces 15, 000 tons of walnuts).