When we ask Marguerite Blanc how long she has been harvesting lavender by hand, she replies quite naturally, “since forever!” This custom of the traditional cutting of lavender with a sickle was handed down by her parents and today is her profession. In order to pass on her passion and “promote her product,” in her words, Marguerite has opened a B&B in her old house in Ferrassières… amongst fields of lavender. Its typical Provençal décor and traditions can be discovered in the French Drôme Department. Each season it’s the same ritual, Marguerite, sometimes accompanied by her granddaughter Zelya, leaves early in the morning to cut the lavender. She makes up the bouquets then hangs them up upside down in a dedicated shed providing good air circulation. After the manual harvest in the great outdoors comes the traditional drying phase whose duration varies according to the weather: “it takes between 4 and 5 days for the bouquets to dry.” Next these are stored in boxes until the winter, and it’s during the cold season that the bouquets are picked up again, cleaned of impurities and most importantly calibrated in order to be sent to the different sales points.
Marguerite sends her traditional bouquets to florists but also to stores in France and Europe, including Great Britain and Germany. It costs between 3 and 3.50 Euros for a bouquet from Marguerite Blanc’s lavender fields. This young grandmother adds that the harvest this year is lower than previous years: 5 thousand compared to 15 or 20 thousand. The reason? “Lavender doesn’t last as long as before because of a disease,” specifies Marguerite. Indeed, for the last few years, lavender is threatened by the leafhopper, a little insect that devours the plant from the roots to the leaves. A situation that makes Marguerite want to share her love for Provence’s “blue gold” even more. In her B&B, she sets up workshops, organizes exhibitions, promotes lavender oil based cosmetics, and decorates the interiors with her lavender bouquets. But it’s definitely in the kitchen that she enhances her product the best, offering main dishes and desserts flavored with lavender. “Lavender can be marvelous in cooking!” She treats her guests to lavender crème brulée, and distills in all her dishes Herbes de Provence supplemented with lavender. Her favorite is a green salad dressed with no mustard but with lavender. But careful, it’s all in the dose! A stop by Marguerite Blanc’s place for a little introduction to cooking is called for…
Gîtes et chambres d’hôtes en Drôme Provençale
Le Château de la Gabelle - Marguerite BLANC
T 04 75 28 80 54