Olive blossom – Fleurs d’Olivier
After reading an article by Barbara Wilde, http://www.frenchgardening.com, describing a walk on the old olive terraces around Goult, we were inspired and although it is over two hours driving from where we live, we felt we had to see it.
Goult is a pretty village in the Luberon part of the Vaucluse. In the late 1990’s the local community decided to restore the restanques (local name for terraces) and the cabanos (small dwellings), where the farmers, who cultivated the terraces, lived. The restanques provided the local population with food and hence were very important.
On the terraces, olive and fruit trees were planted and underneath, the crops that could cope with drought, like lentils, chick peas and a type of spelt. The walls of the restanques were built with the stones that were readily available on the terraces. As they cleared the land to plant the olive trees and fruit trees, more stones became available. Most of the terrain in the hinterland of the Provence, has more stones than soil.
The restoration project is called ‘La conservatoire des terraces cultivées de Goult’. The walk starts at the windmill, quite unusual now to find a windmill in Provence. A path winds down to the entrance to the terraces. Despite the fact that the terraces and some of the dwellings have been restored and the olive trees pruned back to their former glory, we felt that we were discovering the lost terraces anew. They are what everyone imagines a terrace with olive trees should look like: shapely olive trees, curving stone walls and underneath, this glorious mix of wild flowers, all so peaceful and enriching.
The upkeep now of cultivating the terraces with crops, I guess, would be too much work. The produce of the olive trees was a very important factor in local rural life, the fruit and the oil pressed from the fruit. But the local people used the young leaves to treat high blood pressure, artherosclerosis, and urinary lithiasis (a type of kidney stones). They drank a tea made from the leaves. Olive leaves are completely safe to use. Many herbal medicine books mention ‘olive leaves’ for the same purposes as the locals used to use it for. They do mention that it is a long term treatment. The following is a recipe on how to use the leaves:
Olive Leaf Tea
Ingredients: 7 crushed leaves, 1 teacup of cold water (all during the growing season, olive trees grow shoots around their base, these are ideal to use for the tea).
Boil the leaves in the water for 5 minutes, infuse it for 10 minutes, then filter. Drink 3-4 cups a day, without sugar, and not with meals, for 3 weeks every 2 to 3 months.
Bibliography : Wikipedia – the free encyclopedia; Malcolm Stuart – Herbs & Herbalism; RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs and their uses – Deni Bown; Fytotherapeutisch compendium – J. Van Hellemont; Secrets and Remedies of the Herbs of Provence – Claude Godet.