The wooden gate opens onto a vast garden surrounded by large trees and enlivened by festive country garlands. Light pierces through the foliage to create shimmering mosaics that unfold over twenty vintage tables to the sound of a chorus from the Doors. That day, a Provençal sun dazzled the customers of the Hangar, in Marennes (Charente-Maritime). Only melons are missing on the plates to make you feel fully in summer.
“It’s a product that stands on its own. Personally, I prefer to accompany its freshness with verbena ”, Adrien Brunet, chef of the Hôtel Crillon-le-Brave.
The chef, Antoine Bertrand, starts working them in mid-June, “If it doesn’t float too much!” “ As a kid, he had serious grievances against cucurbits, including “The scent is so powerful that it rotted everything in the parents’ cooler”. Today, the restaurateur, who favors the short circuit in his menus at packed prices (less than 20 euros), cannot do without this star of the region. It is between the Charente coast and the Center-Val de Loire that around a third of the 250,000 tonnes of melons produced in France are grown each year, the rest growing in the South, between Aquitaine and the PACA region.
“Here, melons are in all the gardens, specifies Antoine Bertrand. They are traditionally served with fleur de sel. I cut it into cubes that I offer as a starter with Pineau des Charentes, served separately in a shot glass so as not to drown the flesh. I simply add bread and salted butter to counterbalance its sweet power. If the season is good, I will be able to offer it until the end of September. “
Melon, Proust’s madeleine of summer visitors, has the scent of holidays. It is the refreshing accomplice of family picnics, of the diet that we promise to make last all summer. And according to a study commissioned by the Interprofessional Melon Association, it remains one of the darlings of the French. “It is a product that is maintained, it is still bought around 8 kg per household and per year., specifies Marion Mispouillé, leader of the association. On the other hand, it is very sensitive to the weather. We produce and eat less when the weather is bad, like in 2020. “
« C‘is 90% water’
Marion Mispouillé gives other interesting details. First, the Cucumis melo L. (its scientific name) is not a fruit, but a vegetable from the same family as zucchini. Then, the “Charentais” melon does not correspond to a production zone: “He’s a commercial type, Marion Mispouillé notes. They are found in Charente, Aquitaine, Cavaillon. But also in Spain and Morocco, which are the two big countries from which we import it. “
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