Gourmet Girl Denise here. The last leaves have fallen from the trees here in the Loire River Valley and there is a chill in the air. Two weeks ago the night temperature dipped below freezing, and when I awoke the next morning and stepped outside my tomato plants were black and had turned to mush. They were quite dead. I had picked all of the green tomatoes off of the plants in anticipation of the coming frost and covered my baby Meyer lemon tree in special plant wraps to prevent damage. Now I am trying to figure out what to do with what amounted to about two pounds of under ripe cherry and plum tomatoes. Green tomato chutney is the only recipe I found for them so I’ll give that a try. Here is the recipe: Green tomato chutney recipe | BBC Good Food
While I was outside perusing the frost damage to my veggie garden I heard a horn blowing in the forest across the road. It was followed by the sound of baying hounds and then several gunshots. I just about jumped right out of my shoes! It was the start of hunting season here in France and the hunters weren’t wasting any time. I have mixed feelings about hunting. Here in Europe, it has gone on since the beginning of time, and the locals pride themselves on their hunting prowess. This area used to be much more forested before it became mostly agricultural land, and the local chateau owners always kept their hunting dogs and rifles at the ready. On a recent trip to a local chateau, Chateau Champchevrier, I took these pictures of some of Frances prized hunting hounds. They were very friendly!
There are lots of game animals here in the Loire to hunt. There are several species of deer in the forest as well as boar and pheasant. I recently saw a family of pheasants wandering at the foot of a vineyard in my neighborhood. They are so beautiful!
The rules are that the hunters can not shoot towards anyone’s property, which is a big relief, but I am still a bit nervous about the whole tradition. Especially in light of the fact that the French spend two hours minimum having a big lunch with wine every day, and that might just throw their aim off. A mountain biker in the French Alps was shot dead a month ago by a trigger-happy hunter, so my fears are not without reason. They have also been known to use cats as target practice, so I fear not only for my own hide but for that of my cat Milo. He is my buddy and I would be devastated if he was killed. Here is a pic of my handsome boy:
I was in my kitchen a week ago when I heard shots ring out really close to my house. I ran outside and walked cautiously towards the direction of the shot sounds and saw a hunter walking my eastern property line. I yelled at him ” There is no hunting here!” in French of course, and then I wagged my finger at him in condescension. Just then something came running towards me through the brush. I thought it was a large hare, as there are many of them on my property, but as it bounded closer I could see that it was a very small deer. It was a Roe deer, called Chevreuil, that inhabits the forests in France. Luckily she wasn’t wounded and bounded off. I think I will start putting out salt licks towards the center of my property and create a safe haven for the little things. Here is a pic of a young stag Chevreuil:
Even though I wouldn’t be able to kill one of these adorable creatures myself the hunters here do use all of the animal that they kill, which is the noble and right thing to do if you are going to take its’ life. They hunt to eat, not to collect trophies, and are responsible and practice good safety for the most part. Hunting is a way of life here and it isn’t going to go away, so I just will have to get used to it. And wear a hi-visibility jacket when I go outside on Saturdays.
Have you gone hunting? What did you bag? Do you have any recipes? If so, share with us!
Denise, Gail, and Lindsey