Near the fishing village of Agde, where we will open our new holiday park, you find the "Etang de Thau" lagoon. This lake is separated from the Mediterranean Sea by an almost 20 kilometer long sandbank, the "Lido". It is the largest and deepest lake in the Languedoc. The charm of the place lies in its many Mediterranean hues and rich nature. The lagoon has an enormous biodiversity. The presence of more than 400 different plant species makes it an eldorado for seahorses and sea urchins; a very good reason for divers to go deep. During a walk you will spot special birds including beautiful flamingos, kingfishers and grey herons.
But the absolute leading role is reserved for the oyster. Between the towns of Bouzigues, Mèze and Marseillan, the oyster banks stretch as far as the eye can see.
The French attach great importance to local dishes. This is reflected in the menus which are very different from region to region. From a culinary point of view, the south of France is ideally suited to lovers of oysters and wine.
But if you're here anyway, it's absolutely worth visiting an oyster farm. Even if you are not a fan of this gift of the sea, the passion with which the local oyster farmer talks about it is inspiring. Oysters here are not only a culinary heritage, but also part of very long traditions and culture.
The cultivation of this delicacy has been an important source of income here for centuries. It is still mainly family businesses that put their heart and soul into it for generations.
Due to the lack of tides in the lake, the cultivation of oysters is not easy. Therefore, in this region, the so-called hanging cultivation is applied. The small oysters are attached to lines which hang from racks in the lake until the oysters are mature. By moving the racks up and down, the tides are imitated. That is important because an oyster filters up to 4 gallons of water per hour. That filtering gives them oxygen to live, and they take in plankton and calcium to grow.
As far as you can see, you can see oyster beds. The waters of the Thau Basin give the oysters a unique flavor that can be recognized by the freshness of iodine and an aroma of hazelnut. The Bouzigues oyster is the undisputed jewel of the Lagoon and there is hardly a restaurant in the area where it is not on the menu.
The French most often enjoy oysters during the months that have an 'R' in the name. The reason for this is a decree of King Louis XV in the 18th century, who ordered that oysters should be eaten only during these months. At the time, the oyster was quite fashionable and Louis liked to serve the southern French delicacy to his posh guests at lunch. The painting "The Oyster Lunch" commissioned by Louis from a leading painter of the time, Jean François de Troy, also bears witness to this.
However, the journey to his palace in Versailles was quite time-consuming and without refrigeration there was a risk of spoilage in the hot summer months. Another reason is that oysters are busy reproducing during the summer. The color of the oysters then becomes somewhat milky and this gives them a somewhat sweeter taste than usual.
For these reasons, according to Louis, there were 8 months of the year left that were suitable for oyster consumption and that is why they christened the oysters "Huitrês". That's eight times an R.
Because oysters should be eaten as fresh as possible, they are often opened for you at the table in a restaurant. If you have an oyster knife in your pocket and want to try it? Here's how they do it in Bouzigues: "Put the oyster knife halfway up the side of the oyster and then go up a finger's width: that's where the sphincter is. Then pry and twist the oyster and knife simultaneously against each other. Remove the lid, let the excess liquid drain away first and only then cut the oyster loose from the shell. Enjoy your meal!
The ramparts of the beautiful town of Aigues Mortes offer a unique view of the pink salt flats "Salin du Midi". The salt flats are part of an unspoiled and protected area of 145 thousand hectares: the "Camargue". These salt flats produce the famous "Fleur de Sel".
The pink glow of the salt flats is created by the presence of the "Dunaliela Salina". This is a very special algae because it can survive extremely high salinity. Fleur de Sel itself has a white color.
The Fleur de Sel of Le Saunier de Camargue is harvested here by hand in July and August by the salt workers. To do so, in the spring, water from the Mediterranean Sea is first released into a basin belt. The mistral blows the water to the rear basin and the sun does its work by evaporating the water. The concentration of salt thus becomes higher and higher, creating a wafer-thin layer on the water. Then it is time to harvest the salt.
Fleur de Sel has a crystal structure and can therefore retain some moisture. It therefore does not dissolve when sprinkled over food. This allows the dish to continue to give off its own pure flavor. Besides the magnificent aesthetic color of the salt that makes the dishes look extra beautiful, this is also an important reason for starred restaurants to use Fleur de Sel.
Two wonderful delicacies of French cuisine that are a gift from nature here in the vicinity of Agde.