If today the olive tree is emblematic of Provence, there’s another tree that is steadfastly attached to this territory, the almond tree. Practically disappeared post war, it’s blooming again thanks to some passionate growers.
By Jean-Dominique Dalloz - Photos L'Occitane - March 4, 2012
“You must imagine this plateau covered with almond trees.” Jean-Pierre Jaubert’s gaze travels far north, embracing the vast area. We are in Valensole, about 700 meters above sea level, a place better known for lavender farming than almonds. “From the 1920s, we started pulling out the trees, as they were too delicate to manage, and sometimes unproductive two years in a row,” tells Jean-Pierre Jaubert. “Progressively replaced by lavandin culture, the almond almost disappeared in the 50s.”
With his brother André, Jean-Pierre decided to replant almond trees in 2002. Across 50 hectares, no less than 10,000 almond trees have taken root in their favorite land again. The use of windmills blowing warmer air back over the cool soil protects the almond trees from the frequent springtime frosts, when the first blossom opens. The mechanization of the harvest, with the use of tractors equipped with systems to shake the trunks and the corollas to collect the almonds, makes us forget the long hours our forefathers spent harvesting the fruit of their labor.
In 2006, the Jaubert brothers built a modern crusher, equipped with an optical sorter. “A precious aid, as in the old days, everything was done by hand, and that took a lot of time,” adds Jean-Pierre Jaubert. That said, a piece of the chain, human intervention, remains indispensable as it’s necessary to separate the whole almonds from the broken ones.” The latter will go to nougat producers or will be turned into sweet almond oil for for cosmetic products by L’OCCITANE.
Today, the almonds represent almost a third of the turnover of the farm, which also grows lavandin and durum wheat. Delicious when mixed with pralines or the local specialty biscuit known as croquants, prepared by local confectioners such as François Doucet, in Oraison, almonds can also be enjoyed just as they are: “I eat a handful every morning,” smiles Jean-Pierre Jaubert, “they’re good for everything!”
Les Grandes Marges
Route de Manosque,