May in Burgundy is a month for all things white and beautiful. First off, we have the wonderful Lily of the Valley, or Muguets, which young men hand to their loved ones (see our previous blog post http://burgundycanalvacations.com/uncategorized/may-the-lily-be-with-you/).
However even more spectacular, although with a rather different fragrance, are the drifts of wild garlic that carpet the floors and gleam in the dappled light under trees and hedgerows throughout the region. To be honest you need to be wild about garlic to even think about visiting France. We’re not sure if garlic actually is the French national vegetable, but it’s certainly the most ubiquitous in our cuisine. French Kings famously used to eat a bulb of garlic as an aphrodisiac before taking their paramours to the bedroom, although on Le Papillon we leave chocolates on the pillow!
But wild garlic, which in French is ‘ail sauvage’, grows above the ground. We pick it fresh and use it in soups, salads and as a garnish with starters – and the fact is it isn’t ‘savage’ at all, au contraire the green stalks are perfectly well behaved, sweet and succulent.
There’s something really special about jumping on to the tow path, foraging for nature’s bounty along the canal banks, then heading straight back to the galley to prepare something super-delicious for lunch. Our menus always follow the seasons and many of the vegetables, salads and fruits we serve come straight from the gardens of the lock-keepers’ cottages. It’s good to support the local economy – and never a bad thing to keep lock-keepers on our side.
Of course bulbs and cloves of garlic transcend the seasons and are larder staples, often platted together in strings. Few things beat coming back to Le Papillon after an afternoon exploring the local countryside to the smell of roasting garlic – especially later in the season when the nights draw in and mist hangs over the water.
The result is a dinner which served with France’s national fruit – the grape, always in juice form and in a variety of colours!