Forgive this city kid, but one of the things I find most enchanting about the country is that – at least in summertime – there’s no need to carry a snack on a hike: nature provides. Near Paziols, you can always count on a few things to keep you going as you wander through the garrigue.
1. If you know where to look, you’ll find wild blackberries pretty much everywhere in August. One of my local friends makes a blackberry jam that is to die for from these wild-sourced berries, which are smaller and sweeter than ones you’ll find on supermarket shelves.
2. Fig trees are omnipresent in this region – both green and black. They all ripen at different times, so you need to know where to go. This beautiful fig was so ripe it was positively bursting at the seams.
3. You’ll find wild fennel pretty much everywhere – you can use it as a fresh herb or dry it to make tea. These fennel plants were growing alongside the ruins of the former Cathar castle of Aguilar, overlooking Paziols. I didn’t carry any down with me, but I did rub the flowers in my hands for a bit of that licorice scent.
4. If you don’t look too closely at an almond tree, you may be convinced you’re looking at underripe apricots. Almonds are found inside a fruit in the same family as peaches and apricots: the fruit bursts when the almond is ready to be harvested. You simply remove the fruit to reveal the stone which, when cracked opened, contains the almond kernel. We have both sweet and bitter almond trees here, and you need to be a local to know which is which.
5. The wine region around Paziols is actually the largest wine producer in all of France, though it’s not particularly well known. The winemakers here have fallen on hard times of late, and many of the vines are abandoned, tumbling into the landscape. Even with no one looking after them, they still bear sweet grapes that you can snack on from late August through late September.