By Ellen Hall
Mas Boutet is a place apart, a reminder of a less frenetic epoch when you planted trees and watched them grow. Even the entrance takes on the meaning of “to entrance”.
The mosaic murals of sea and mountains, by the artist Odette Boutet, invite you to pause and notice the fish and sea urchins, cats and squirrels… a celebration of life.
Isabelle Girodeau, Odette’s daughter-in-law, manages the domain of 10 hectares of olive groves in Argeles,
St Andre and Port Vendres as well as St Clement Sescebes on the Spanish side of the Alberes.
Trained as a town planner, Isabelle has returned to her agricultural roots quite literally.
In 2001 she and her writer husband Gildas decided to take up the challenge to restore their combined families’ olive trees to their original splendour.
A tour of their domain includes a visit to their “laboratory”: a field where they have planted various varieties of olives.
In their efforts to attain an AB (Agriculture Biologique) label, they have formed a close partnership with M. Nature.
Turning their backs on pesticides and chemicals, they work, as the generation of our grandparents did, in collaboration with natural elements.
In their war against the tiny white fly which destroys the olive, the Giro deals deploy no less than five levels of natural protection: bats, birds, insect-rich grass, water traps and a yellow flower whose parasite eats the eggs of the dreaded fly.
The year of an olive plantation is eventful.
February pruning opens the centre of the tree to the sun.
In March the buds begin. May sees the first white flowers and June sees the first olives.
In July the tree fills out. The olives’ flesh becomes firm in August. The first harvest of eating olives is in September.
In November the olives turn from purple to black. In December these black olives which give the tastiest oil are harvested and the very same day, to preserve their freshness, they are taken to the mill in Corneilla la Rivière to be pressed.
Two more mosaic tableaux by Odette Boutet decorate the shop: a man in a gaily flowered shirt pruning trees and two grandmothers filling baskets with black olives.
At the end of the tour you can taste the oils as well as a variety of eating olives.
All of Mas Boutet’s products receive the same loving care and respect for their natural goodness.
Their “Vierge Extra de Noël” would make a fine gift for the discerning eaters among your friends and family.
Make a point to seek out Isabelle at Mas Boutet’s stand at the Christmas market at the Chateau of Collioure in December.
|For more details see: www.masboutet.com|