We arenʼt all fortunate enough to be able to grow our own fruit and vegetables but that doesnʼt mean we have to make do with the produce available in supermarkets or pay over the odds for fresh fruit and veg in a high street green grocerʼs. La Cueillette du Rocher in Roquebrune sur Argens is a giant allotment with 3 hectares of plantations where you can pick as much or as little as you wish. There are more than 50 different fruits and vegetables to choose from, including numerous varieties of tomatoes, melons, courgettes, aubergines, artichokes, melons, a choice of salades, raspberries and strawberries.
“Our ethics are to respect the environment while ensuring the quality and authenticity of our produce,” says Franck Ferré, who runs La Cueillette with his associate, Jean-François Wind. We practice reasonable methods of agriculture and are 95% organic. The missing 5% translates to the small amount of engrais (feed) we use to help the young plants adapt when weʼre transplanting them outside. “The chemicals we use disperse within 10 days, so their impact on the environment is minimal. Other than that, the only chemical we use is Bouillie Bordelaise, which is a fungicide accepted under ʻbioʼ-regulations. We donʼt use pesticides and we use goat manure as fertiliser. Our plants are mulched and watered in the evening to conserve water. So, you see, our ʻreasonableʼ methods do involve having a high regard for the environment, without going the whole hog and chasing after the ʻorganicʼ label. “Organic agriculture has been the subject of considerable hype over recent years which has led to some misconceptions on the part of the consumer, including the mistaken belief that organic produce contains more vitamins or has more nutritional value than non-organic produce. This isnʼt true: an organic tomato has no more nutritional value than a non-organic tomato. “When it comes to nutritional value, freshness is the key. From the moment it is severed from the plant, a tomato loses 10% of its nutritional value per day, so the sooner you eat it after itʼs been picked, the more goodness it has. For this reason, we have clients who come two or three times a week to stock up on their fresh produce. “For those who are not inclined or able to do the necessary bending and stooping, we have a constant supply of freshly-picked produce for sale in our onsite boutique, along with numerous gourmandise, including fresh goatʼs cheese, made for us by Robert Bedot - one of the top three cheese makers in France, home-made syrups, vinegars, preserves and a whole selection of other authentic produce. There are refreshment facilities so visitors can relax and enjoy a coffee in the morning, a cold drink at lunchtime or perhaps a glass of chilled rosé in the evening. “We have clients of all nationalities and we do speak English. Families are welcome; itʼs a fun, educational experience for children and they love choosing which fruit and veg they would like to take home for dinner - we actually have a couple of schools which do organised trips here. Weʼll lend you everything you need, from basket and secateurs to a wheelbarrow. For reasons of hygiene though, Iʼm afraid we donʼt allow dogs among the plantations. “Weʼre pretty down to earth at La Cueillette. What you see here is what you get: a friendly service and fresh, authentic, goodquality homegrown produce at a reasonable price.” Rose-Mary Matthews - The Var Reporter