Once known for its fields of almond and truffle oak trees, the Valensole plateau has been famous since the 19th century for its production of lavandin, a hybrid form of lavender. Emblematic of Provence, lavender spreads its violet hue and scent over the surrounding area. Whatever the length of your stay between the end of June and mid-July, don’t deprive yourself of the unique spectacle of lavandin fields covering the plateau as far as the eye can see. Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon is an ideal starting point to discover the cultivation of lavender and visit a distillery.
In mid-June, the plant starts to flower and is ready to be harvested in mid-July. Full of sunshine, its stems are tall and wonderfully fragrant. The bees know this perfectly well as they forage from the flowers all day long to make honey with a very special flavour. The lavandin fields cover the plateau with an incredible fine mauve carpet. When distilled, the lavandin will be transformed into the essential oil (protected by a PDO), whose healing and disinfecting properties have been known since antiquity.
In addition to its fragrance, the lavandin will be used in many cosmetic products but also in culinary products such as ice cream or as a spice to flavour seasoning.
Local scents and flavours
While lavender and lavandin are the olfactory hallmarks of Provence, the land also offers delicious flavours, generous in taste, authentic in terms of production. But what are we talking about here? For example, lavender honey is something you simply have to experience. What about herbs? Thyme, Breckland thyme, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, basil, chervil, tarragon, and more. Provence is a distillery of scents. Picked and dried they blend fabulously with our local olive oils, of course, typical for their singular strength! Some of them even benefit from an “Haute Provence” PDO. A must-have! Where can you find all these delights, and more? We recommend you visit one of our country houses. The one in Allemagne-en-Provence, not far from Riez, welcomes you every day of the week.
During your escapades on the plateau, you will be fascinated by the fields of lavandin that alternate with the fields of golden wheat. Between them, you will also notice rows of trees: when they are not olive trees, apricot trees or almond trees, they are truffle oaks! These also give the Verdon river and Haute-Provence its age-old reputation. This seemingly arid and poor land in fact conceals many riches!
The black truffle, Tuber melanosporum, has been harvested in the region for centuries. Formerly called “rabasse” (a rough and grating word that evokes a terroir with a strong character), today the truffle is a “black diamond” with its intrinsic qualities that owe everything to the perpetual sunshine, the specific climate and the sandy and stony soil. Once picked up by a few peasants in the wild forests on the edge of cultivated fields, they were sold in the markets of the villages of the region: Riez and Aups.
But the agricultural transformations of the 19th century threatened the harvest of the fungi, resulting in fears of its disappearance. To avoid this, over the decades, truffle oaks have been preserved and replanted to ensure the development of this fungi; this is the art of trufficulture (production, harvesting and marketing). The plateau and the region have a few truffle fields, like Dominique Martino. The Maison de la Truffe in Aups traces the history of the local truffle, famous worldwide for its incomparable taste and texture.