La fin des haricots

It is November and the vegetable gardens are looking a bit raggedy. But I am always surprised what is still growing and ripening between the beginning of October and now.

Over the years we have tried to keep a log in which we write down the first and last harvest of what we are growing in the garden. It is a bit like having our own global warming statistics – except it is extremely unreliable as we are not very organised about data input.

What surprised us this year were the late beans. We planted them at the end of May, hoping to eat them in July. As they were starting to grow, we had the hot spell of June (the one that broke all the temperature records in the South East of France). The plants got whacked but didn’t give up. Then they just had time to produce flowers and – bang – here comes the second hot spell. The plants were so petrified, they just sat there, not growing, not dying, and then finally they dropped their flowers. Fortunately they started flowering again later and we picked our first beans in September – and our last ones at the end of October.

Not the biggest harvest of the century, so thank goodness we have other vegetables to pick. The tomatoes were unbelievable this year. Planted at the end of May, first ripe ones just after le quatorze juillet and there are still some red ones in the garden now. The swiss chard didn’t mind the heat and produced leaves the size of elephant ears (baby elephant) and of course it keeps going never mind the cold, wet and frost.

But the big treats of the end of the gardening year are the root vegetables. The carrots and beetroot did well this year growing in a shady corner along the barn wall.

Meanwhile in the South facing garden the butternut squash is still sunbathing and is keeping the the swiss chard company.

If we don’t fancy anything from the garden for lunch we can pop out and pick mushrooms in the fields – never mind “the end of the beans”

PS   La fin des haricots is an expression meaning “it’s the end of the line” – basically, there is no more hope. In most of cases it is used ironically.

The origin of the saying is unclear, but it sneaked itself into the french language relatively recently at the beginning of the last century. It may have to do with school lunches in the cantine, in the years when green beans were considered as the bottom of the list in the hierarchy of vegetables – or it may refer to card games, when dried beans were used as a substitute for coins.

But the “cantine food” at Les Sarziers is definitely not la fin des haricots ….


4 thoughts on “La fin des haricots

  1. What a lovely feast!

    John used to keep a garden diary with all sorts of notes about what was happening and what he was doing – and some comments on the weather. I believe it’s in the loft here somewhere.

    He was incredibly industrious and I don’t know how he found the time for all these things without us noticing. His genealogy research is staggering as then it meant spending hours in likely parish church vestries looking through dusty books for familiar names and dates.

  2. Hi Peter, I wish I had some scientific and industrious blood. I am quite good at ideas, but there is not enough steam to keep the train moving. My garden statistics have been going since 1991, but the information is very patchy – so in fact no good at all!

  3. Wow, I am very impressed! What a productive garden! A garden diary is a great idea! I often write it into calendars with all kinds of other stuff and then it gets lost!

  4. We would love to have a summer garden, but our summers are spent traveling to places like Les Sarziers, so we are home to tend the plants! I can just imagine the wonderful meals you have enjoyed from your bountiful harvests!

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