Thursday, June 11, 2020

Perigord Vert by Smell

Somethings I just cannot share directly with you. Here's hoping you have a strong sense of imagination....

















(lavender, roses, philadelphus, roses,, lilies, cow-pen, fig, fig, mowed hay, honeysuckle, jasmine, manure, new pavement, quarry, roses, roses, dog, storm)

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Friday's Petite Aquarelle


12" x 16" framed size


$140 including shipping 
available at www.thomasvieth.com

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Strawberries, Perigord Vert


This is that taste of summer: strawberries on cereal, strawberries and cream, strawberry tarts, strawberries as candy. 

Friday mornings the words from the musical Oliver ring in my head as I make the rounds of the Brantome market -  “Ripe Strawberries Ripe, Ripe Strawberries Ripe. Who will buy……”

This time of year strawberries hold pride of place on market days. These jewels are not tumbled in with other produce. They are presented (Displayed!) apart, emphasizing their color, shape, and especially to magnify their evocative smell. Evocative of warmth, summer, grandma’s desserts.

With the best strawberries in all of France cultivated only 30 minutes away we are guaranteed the cream of the crop. Local vendors are bringing in flats direct from farms just south of Perigueux. The strawberries in this region have earned the label ‘PGI’ (Protected Geographical Identification). There are 200 farms growing 75,000 tons of this delightful treasure. The berry production from this tiny region represents a quarter of the entire French crop. 



Berries for market mornings have been picked within the last 12 hours - some even that morning. Ever so fragile they are never allowed in the sun once they are picked -  these are not your high acid, long traveling, stuck on a rack grocery store strawberries - heck you’re smart if you eat them before you get back to the car.

There are four main berries for sale here - 

The tiny irregular mara de bois so delicate they will barely survive the morning. But oh the strength of the flavor and perfume of this ruby gem. Have you ever eaten a wild strawberry? This is close as you will get if not.

The Charlotte that taste just as good as the mara de bois and is twice as big - also a bit more “sturdy”.

The Cléry are brilliant carmine, well shaped, fairly firm, and good for eating fresh or baking.

Gariguette are bright shinny red, elongated in shape, sugary and acidic

The name strawberry probably comes from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘streawberige’ meaning ‘runners.’ Although another possible origin of the name comes from the beds of straw on which berries are cultivated to prevent fruits coming into contact with the soil (a host to various fungal diseases.)

The strawberry is related to the rose family and one of the only fruits to have its seeds on the outside. It was originally used as medicine and has long been used to cleanse and purify the digestive system and to act as a mild tonic for the liver.

The French began taking the strawberry from the forest into their gardens in the 14th century. Charles V, king from 1364 to 1380, had 1,200 strawberry plants in his royal garden. In the early 15th century western European monks were using the wild strawberry in their illuminated manuscripts. The entire strawberry plant was used to treat depressive illnesses. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and if your conscience is looking for a little reprieve from calories after the Dordogne’s culinary temptations, you’ll be pleased to know that a 100g portion contains only 27 calories.

The first garden strawberry was grown in Brittany, France, during the late 18th century. Prior to this wild woodland strawberries were the source of the fruit. A French excursion to Chile in 1712 brought back a strawberry plant with female flowers that eventually resulted in the common strawberry that we have today. When first planted in Europe, the plants grew vigorously but produced no fruit. Around the mid 18th century, French gardeners in Brest and Cherbourg discovered that when the varieties F. moschata and F. virginiana were planted in between rows of F. chiloensis, the Chilean strawberry would bear abundant and unusually large fruits.

So - that’s more than you ever wanted to know about our strawberries here in the Perigord Vert, La Dordogne, France.    Enjoy!



Saturday, May 30, 2020

Friday's Petite Aquarelle


12" x 16" framed size


$140 including shipping 
available at www.thomasvieth.com

Friday, May 15, 2020

Happiest Critters Alive

I start to listen carefully to the spring skies around the beginning of April. Early April is a bit too early, but better to be tuned in than to miss that first trill trill treep sound sweeping overhead. That’s the sound of the swallows returning. This year I felt like I was waiting forever. Maybe that was because I had more time to linger under the sunny spring skies or maybe there was no noise overriding the promising spring breezes. Finally towards the end of the month I heard it. Trill trill treep They’re back, they’re back! Our swallows were swooping and chattering overhead. Oh the feeling of joy and freedom those small birds carry in on the wing. 

I’ve had the good fortune to always live where there have been either swallows or one of their close cousins. It’s a bit hard to distinguish between the four types included in the family. There are subtle differences. Martins glide longer and have a white back and throat. The swallow darts and swoops and has a dark head, red throat and a forked tail. The distinctions don’t really matter because they are all tiny black jets that sweep and dart across the sky chirping that distinctive trill trill treep. They all seem to be the happiest critters alive.
Swallows eat, sleep and mate in flight. They are vulnerable on the ground. Their scientific name is apus apus -(latin for ‘without feet’ ). Their legs are too short and their wings too long to permit them to pick up enough momentum to easily take off from the ground. They don’t take off so much as launch themselves from a perch. The only reasons they have to stop flying is to lay eggs and hatch their chicks. 

Originally swallows would have built their nest in rocky cliffs. Humans created more reliable housing with tiled eaves and dry barns to tuck into. Swallows are both faithful to one partner and to one nesting place. They return year after year as long as there is a place to return to…Slowly but surely development and loss of barns are closing up their nesting habitats. There are no specific statistics but their population is declining. 
If you have the good fortune to have nesting swallows you will know how spritely and industrious they are. Their nest are small, shallow and bowl shaped, tucked up on a beam or under the eaves. Because they usually nest near other swallows you can’t miss their commotion. Both parents swoop in and out all day long feeding the tiny chicks. When the chicks first hatch you just hear tiny chirps as the parent arrives with a tasty insect. A few days later yellow beaks are peeking over the edge of the nest. Before you know it you can see three to five scrawny necks holding up wobbly heads each clamoring for food each time a parent arrives. If you are patient -or have bad timing- you will see that they are well trained little chicks - they turn around and poop over the edge of the nest. This tidiness is good for the nest, bad for the homeowner. All that gluey poop can be quite a nuisance when the swallows have insisted on nesting over a doorway or where you park your bike. Suddenly one day, usually when you are not looking, the babies perch on the edge of the nest one last time and then there is silence. It’s only been a few weeks and those fledglings are off on the wing. Life’s miracle of babies growing up so fast.

Summer skies are animated by the swallow family. They sweep high when the insects are up and they sweep low skimming along the river when there is an insect hatch. Sometimes I think they swoop high and low just because they can. Trill trill treep. Sometime in August they start to perch on the electric wires. One day you realize the skies have gone quiet, the swallows have left us, autumn is on its way. Thankfully we have a while before that!