If you have a couple of square feet of sunny ground, you can grow 25 saffron crocus plants. Yes, just a small little patch of ground, or even a couple of 10 inch deep or so pots or window boxes, you can have homegrown saffron. Honest. Pre-order now from La Vie Rustic to get your shipment of saffron crocus bulbs in early September to plant asap. In 30 days, by mid-October, you will be gathering the first of your harvest. It’s easy, fun, and the saffron you grow and harvest will be of superior quality. Think Paella and Risotto and Fish Soup with Rouille. (recipe included with order). And, each year the bulbs multiply, so at the end of 3 years, you’ll have 4 to 5 bulbs for everyone planted this year. It couldn’t be easier!
A few years ago, when I saw a sign for Safran Provence, or Provencal Saffron at a fish mongers, I became intrigued by the idea of growing my own saffron. Saffron is a necessary ingredient for such French fish dishes as Bouillabaisse and Soupe de Poissons (my personal favorite), and the popular Spanish Paella, so it wasn’t surprising to see the sign, near another fish-loving condiment, Sel d’Algue, or seaweed salt.
When I asked for the saffron, I was told it was sold out and would be back in stock after the local October harvest. Saffron is the orange stigma of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativa), and I’d had great success growing other types of crocus, so why not give it a try? That June my husband and I placed a pre-order for 500 bulbs from a reputable bulb producer in Holland. We were told to plant them as soon as they arrived in early September. We planted about half of them before leaving on a trip to Provence. One of the projects on our list was to find a commercial saffron producer.
A neighbor of mine in Provence is a former Garde de Champetre (rural policeman) of two small villages and knows everyone for miles around, plus he’s started growing his own saffron.
He gave me names and contact information for several local producers, and I called the first one on the list, who happened to be in the next village over, introduced myself and asked if I could meet him and see his saffron fields. He told me, “There’s nothing to see. There’s no bloom yet. Not until October.” I would have been happy to see the plants, but I didn’t want to force the issue, so instead I asked if we could at least meet so I could ask him some questions about saffron production. “OK”, he said. “How about in twenty minutes at the bar?” Since the village has only one bar, no name was needed.
Over glasses of rosé, pastis, and sparkling water, M. Begremond gave me and my husband a verbal tour de force of the history of saffron growing in Provence, (introduced by the Greeks, grown all over at one time, production diminished with the wars, his family has been growing it since the 1800s, and he is currently growing about 45, 000 bulbs), the current market prices ( French-grown saffron brings 22,000 Euros per kilo (2.2 pounds), Spanish 17,000 Euros and that from the Maghreb a mere 1500 Euros per kilo), and the growing, harvesting, and yields of saffron bulbs. The latter was accompanied by illustrations sketched on sheets from a Richard Pastis notepad borrowed from the man who owns the bar, who also happened to be M. Begremond’s cousin.
Once we got back from France in early October, we planted the rest of our bulbs according to M. Begremond’s directions. Our first planting, done in September started blooming right on schedule, in mid-October. It was very exciting to go out every morning to harvest the blooms, bring them inside the kitchen, carefully extract the stigmae, and set them out on a plate to dry. Each of these bulbs produced a flower, but the later planting was less successful, with only about half of the bulbs producing a flower. Ideally, each flower will give you 3 stigmae, or threads.
I stored my precious saffron in a small jar as soon as the stigmae were dry, in a day or two. Every few days, I’d open the jar (I still do) just to breathe in the incredible aroma. It was so different, so much more aromatic and complex even than other saffron I’ve purchased. I’ve used some of it, for Soupe de Poisson, for risotto, and for a seafood paella.
This year, I’m looking forward to an even larger harvest, since the crocus bulbs mightily replicate. I dug up one, just to check, and there were 4 bulbs where last year there had been one. So, my 400 bulbs planted last year have now multiplied to over 1500!
New! La Vie Rustic Selling Crocus Saffron Bulbs
I’m very happy for La Vie Rustic to offer Crocus Saffron bulbs to its customers for pre-order. This is important as we will ship them to you immediately upon their arrival here from Holland, for you to plant on reception. You should have a sunny location large enough to plant 25 or 50 bulbs 6 inches apart. The ground should be weed-free, and turned over to at least 10 inches deep. The bulbs can also be planted in pots that are at least 15 inches deep and filled with potting mix. It is important to plant your bulbs as soon as your receive them.
The blooms will begin in October, just 4 to 6 weeks after planting, and continue for 3-5 weeks. Plan to harvest daily.
Your Crocus Saffron bulbs are a robust 8-9 cm, and come packaged in a muslin bag, with a La Vie Rustic instruction card for planting, care, harvesting, drying, and storing, plus a full-color recipe card for French-Style Soupe de Poissons.
Pre-order your crocus now to insure delivery in early September and start planning the dishes to use your home-grown saffron.
Other News and Ideas
La Vie Rustic- Cooking and Living in the French Style by Georgeanne Brennan (Weldon-Owen 2017)– signed copies are available at Food52.com or buy at your favorite bookstore or on-line. Try the Fig-glazed and Fig Stuffed Pork Roast, Pistachio and Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Pistachio Oil, and Strawberry Mousse. Over 100 recipes, loads of gorgeous photos, plus stories.
Plant now for Fall Harvest
Now, mid-summer, is the time to be planting your fall garden. We propose:
Get a head start on a year-round garden, planting in August and early September for a fall crop.
Potager Year-round Garden Box with 13 seeds, 3 garden maps and full planting, growing, and harvesting instructions plus 13 metal garden markers.Comes packaged in a gift-worthy Kraft box.
La Vie Rustic Sel d’Algue, seaweed salt. It’s especially good to season seafood and pasta, or to use anytime you want a taste of the sea. Try using it to flavor butter.
La Vie Rustic Pistachio and La Vie Rustic Olive Wood Serving Boards made from California trees by an artisan woodworker at his small mill in Northern California exclusively for La Vie Rustic. These are truly one of a kind and will make a very special Christmas gift.
Sunflowers are so easy to grow and they’ll provide not only Mom but the whole family loads of blooms throughout the summer. The sunflowers in La Vie Rustic’s Sunflower Collection are all branching types which means that after the first bloom on the top of the plant, side branches continue to put out blooms, making these types ideal for bouquet cutting. The varieties chosen for the collection are the closest I could find to matching the sunflowers in Vincent Van Gogh’s famous series of sunflowers, some that look like crystanthemum, others with a green center, others brillaiannt gold and faintly orange.
To see a view of the original paintings, I suggest visiting this site: http://www.vggallery.com/misc/sunflowers.htm
For many people, sunflowers along with lavender are the symbols of Provence, and sometimes you’ll see fieldsof them juxtoposed, as below, on the plateau near Riez, in the one of the lavender growing regions. These sunflowers, however, are not destined for the flower markets, but for oil production.The photo above appears in My Culinary Journey -Food and Fetes of Provence, along with dozens of other evocative photos, more than 40 recipes, and travel essays on seven different festivals held throughout the region. Authored by the owner of La Vie Rustic, Georgeanne Brennan,we’ll send an inscribed copy to your mother (or to you) with a message of your choice, plus a complimentary jar of La Vie Rustic’s culinary Sel de Lavande to enhance the mood – and food!
So looking forward to a Happy Mother’s Day for all!
This is a photo of Sultan de Marabout fig, the tastiest fig I know. The tree produces, large, plump figs starting in August through October. Here at La Vie Rustic we’ve created trees for sale from cuttings of our mother tree, which is now about 12 years old. The trees will be shipped to you bare root, ready for planting either directly into a sunny spot or a large planter or pot.
Now is also an ideal time to be planning your year round kitchen garden or even getting some lettuce seeds started. Read about both as well as ordering information in the Potager section of our website.
The new La Vie Rustic Cooking and Living in the French Style is now available for purchase wherever fine books are sold or on-line. (See home page also) An entire chapter of the book is devoted to stories and recipes from the seasonal potager, and another to stories and recipes from the orchard. A particular favorite of the author is Fig-Glazed and Fig Stuffed Pork Rib Roast on pages 111-112. Other chapters are The Barnyard, Forest and Field, and Water.
I apologize for the last two postings with the missing/broken images. Thank you for your patience. We think the problem has been discovered and remedied. I am hoping this image of Socca and Classic Tapenade from the La Vie Rustic cookbook comes through correctly. And here is a link to my recipe for French Peas and Lettuce that appeared in today’s San Jose Mercury Newpaper, on-line. Print version on Sunday. Thank you all for your patience and have a lovely weekend. ~Georgeanne
It’s here! Over 100 recipes and photos, stories of France and food, of pigs and sheep, of truffles and snails, and more tucked between the covers. Photography is by Sara Remington, and the book is published by Weldon-Owen. The official pub date is March 7, but you can pre-order it now from these sources, or from your favorite bookstore.
AND – of special note: Book Passage and Left Bank Bistro in Larkspur are hosting a special ‘Cooks with Books’ event for La Vie Rustic -Cooking and Living in the French Style on March 26, 2017. Would love to see La Vie Rustic and A Pig in Provence fans and friends there for a memorable Sunday lunch together. Ethel Brennan and family will be there, as well as Joanne Kauffman, with whom Georgeanne began the French adventure with as roomates in Aix-en-Provence.
For me, It’s just not a kitchen without a collection of oven-to-table gratin dishes. Ceramic, enameled cast-iron, all in different sizes, shapes and colors are among my favorite dishes to collect and to use.
I am thrilled with Elaine Corn’s newest style gratin dish, made exclusively for La Vie Rustic. Rectangular, in hues of red, golds, blues and browns, with accents of white on the outer edges. More…
Gratins, from the verb gratiner, to form a crust, are a mainstay in the French kitchen and in mine as well, especially vegetable gratins .They are one of the easiest of dishes to make.
The vegetables vary according to the season. In winter, broccoli and cauliflower, in spring asparagus and artichokes, in summer think peppers and eggplant, and in fall, butternut squash. Parcook the vegetables, put them in a buttered gratin dish, pour over some bechemel sauce and top with grated cheese and a sprinkle of buttered bread crumbs, then bake at 350 degrees until a golden crust has formed and the sauce is bubbling. Take the dish to the table and serve hot, scooping out steaming spoonfuls. For more about gratins and the recipe for my Leek Gratin
Brighten winter’s gray days with La Vie Rustic’s Olio Nuovo and Citrus Salad Set. It has all you need to make vinaigrettes with freshly milled olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and citrus sea salt. In this case, Seka Hills Olio Nuovo, La Vie Rustic’s Sel d’Agrume, made with sea salt and lemon and orange zest, and a juice from California-grown Meyer lemon. The set also includes a full-color recipe card, and a collection of French Heirloom Lettuce seeds to get you (or a friend) ready for spring planting.
Seka Hills Olio Nuovo is made from Arbequina olives, harvested and milled by Seka Hills in Northern California’s Capay Valley. Dark green, buttery, slightly peppery and redolent of fresh olives, the oil was milled in late November, 2016. Only a limited number of cases were bottled.
The Meyer lemons are produced on 25 year-old trees planted on a former California Spanish land grant property in Northern California and picked and packed the day of shipping.
La Vie Rustic has stocking stuffers for the cook, the gardener, and even the backyard chicken raiser. Small, easily tucked into a stocking, ready to discover, these little gifts last beyond the moment.
Red Poppies and Bishop’s Lace Flower Seeds mixed in a muslin bag with California rice hulls for ease of scattering to create a swath of flowers, your own small piece of France.
For chicken keepers, a muslin bag of mixed grasses and legumes to plant a Chicken Scratch Patch of treats.
Here at La Vie Rustic we think that a little bit of life in the French style can be experienced wherever you live. It can happen simply by reading a memoir cookbook, like My Culinary Journey – Food and Fetes of Provence, and imagining the place and the food. That experience can be taken a step further by cooking a few of the recipes, some fragrant with the wild herbs of Provence. Take a moment to stand in your kitchen as a Beef Daube simmers, inhaling the aromas of the Mediterranean back country. It’s a little like being in the south of France. And, to really immerse yourself into the French experience, plant a French style Potager garden using La Vie Rustic’s Potager Seed Set for a year round garden, complete with planting maps for a small space, planting and harvesting instructions, 12 different varieties of vegetable seeds, plus flower seeds and 13 sturdy zinc garden markers.
The Provence Holiday Gift Set includes all 3. The Potager Seed Set with Maps, a copy of My Culinary Journey – Food and Fetes of Provence, and jar of La Vie Rustic’s Herbes de Provence, plus a sprig of fresh sweet bay laurel carefully tucked inside the Potager Garden Seed Set Box. It’s the gift of Provence and we are happy to gift wrap the set for you between November 28 and December 19.
The book is signed by the author, Georgeanne Brennan, founder of La Vie Rustic, and can be personally inscribed if you wish. Just let us know.
Provence Holiday Gift Set………………………….$60.00
All items are also sold separately.