Spring has officially sprung although looking through my window at the moment you might take some convincing!
Time to start rebuilding the immune system! In times gone by the Aveyronnais spent much of the winter in bed, travellers passing through in those days are scathing of the Aveyronnais “emerging blinking into the sunlight”. But spending as much time sleeping or at least in bed was a way to conserve body heat, energy and food in a region that; until the arrival of the railways and discovery of coal in the 1800’s, was incredibly poor.
People still hold on to the traditions associated with making the most of the new bounty on offer to “cleanse the blood” and up the vitamins a little!
First to appear is the pissenlit/dandelions, the young shoots are picked to eat raw in a salad with lardons and hardboiled eggs or blanched and added to an omlet.
Next are the points de chou or tanous as they are called in the local patois. Still offered for sale on the market by local people, tied up with string. These are the flower shoots of various brassicas, which in typical Aveyronnais fashion cannot be allowed to go to waste. The local way to eat them is blanched and served with a vinaigrette as a salad, sometimes with the ubiquitous lardons and hardboiled egg. Personally I love them as a salad tiede either: with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice or with walnut oil, walnuts and local goats cheese.
Then if you are ever driving around the country lanes of north Aveyron from mid April to mid May, be very careful not to run over the “répounchou” hunters who are busy examining the hedgerows. Répounchous is considered to be wild asparagus although it is in fact the shoots of wild hops, which are also highly prized in parts of Italy. Very bitter it certainly feels like it must be doing you some good! It’s once again blanched and served in salads or omlettes.